Flip malleefowl trend

Helpful haven: Environmental architect Emilis Pregauskas, Malleefowl Monarto coordinator Rachel Westcott and land owner Robert Thiele stand before a 100 hectare allotment which they hope to enclose to protect local malleefowl.
Helpful haven: Environmental architect Emilis Pregauskas, Malleefowl Monarto coordinator Rachel Westcott and land owner Robert Thiele stand before a 100 hectare allotment which they hope to enclose to protect local malleefowl.

MALLEEFOWL populations around the State have dropped significantly in the past century and are on the brink of extinction.

But the species could soon be provided with an enclosed safe haven in the Murraylands as work progresses with a local conservation group.

For the past eight months, Malleefowl Monarto has been working to obtain 100 hectares of land near the Monarto Conservation Park, where the group has ambitions to fence the area and rid it of any feral pests.

Acquiring a further 400 hectares of adjacent land is also part of the group's vision - it already has plans drawn to convert existing sheds into incubators, laboratories and accommodation as well as the construction of an aviary and visitor centre.

Environmental architect Emilis Prelgauskas said if the plans for the Malleefowl Research Sanctuary were adopted, local malleefowl would be provided with protection and therefore longevity.

"The whole idea of a sanctuary is you fence it off and get rid of all the feral species in the area," he said.

"That way we can give malleefowl a guarantee of survival.

"We are trying to be ahead of the game with this particular animal."

Malleefowl are protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, but when it comes to roaming foxes and wild cats the birds have no security.

Their nests, incubating up to 20 eggs at a time, are too often an easy target for hungry wildlife.

By constructing a two-metre high fence, lining it with tripwire and burrowing it at least half a metre underground, Mr Prelgauskas said the birds could live freely in a safe environment.

"We don't want the animals to end up being in something like a glass cage," he said.

"But in 30 years times we want to say we have a population of malleefowl."

Malleefowl Monarto coordinator Rachel Westcott said the sanctuary was needed at Monarto as the local population of malleefowl was especially threatened due to its isolation from other groups of birds.

She said the land the group was interested in would provide the perfect vegetation for a sanctuary and the existing infrastructure on the neighbouring allotment would ease the workload to establish a research centre.

"We've got this great gem here and we should really treasure it," Ms Westcott said.

"This is ecologically sound, environmentally sensible and touristic - although we don't want another zoo.

"It's a golden opportunity and it's very important we pick it up and give it all we've got."

The fence is expected to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, while a 10-year budget for the entire sanctuary, including purchasing of land and establishing a research centre, extended well into seven figures.

Malleefowl Monarto is currently seeking supporters and sponsors to help with the project, and would love to hear from interested parties on 8531 2077.

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