Nature Foundation has bought a 200-hectare property that is home to rare animals and birds in South Australia’s south-east following a fundraising campaign bolstered by two large donations from professors.

This included from birdwatching academic Hugh Possingham, who first visited the Kingston South East area in 1981 and donated $100,000 to help protect endangered species like the malleefowl.

“In fact when I was an undergraduate at university, I made a vegetation map of Mount Scott Conservation Park which abuts this block of land and I’ve been making bird lists and looking at the bird fauna of that whole upper Limestone Coast region for a long time,” Professor Possingham said.

Another ecology professor, Phill Cassey, donated $100,000, which, along with smaller donations, enabled the charity to buy the land for $390,000.

Professor Possingham now works at the University of Queensland’s School of the Environment and is the chief councillor of the Biodiversity Council.

He regularly visits SA’s south-east and last year noticed a 200-hectare property called Bullock Bridge was for sale.

Professor Hugh Possingham has been visiting the area for more than 40 years.(Supplied: Andy Rasheed)

The property, which sits adjacent the Mount Scott Conservation Park and on the traditional lands of the Meintangk people, was used as grazing land for stock. 

According to Nature Foundation, the large parcel of land is one of the largest inland blocks of native vegetation with very high biodiversity values in the region, making it a “remarkable” bird sanctuary to approximately 140 different species.

Climate change spurred buy 

Professor Possingham said there was a “huge diversity” of rare birds in the area, including various types of robins and the malleefowl. 

“Mount Scott is probably the most reliable place to find a malleefowl in the south-east. You can go into the Mount Scott car park and almost always guarantee seeing malleefowl,” he said.

“There are a lot of other species of woodland birds that are there that are otherwise rare.”

About 85 per cent of the land remains uncleared.(Supplied: PPHS)

He said many mallee species were suffering in other regions, such as north of the Riverland, where ecosystems get “very, very hot” for multiple days and will do so more frequently under climate change.

“Their last refuges are probably going to be in the upper Limestone Coast as climate change gets worse and worse,” Professor Possingham said.

The property also contains wombats, emus and goannas, as well as potentially koalas and sugar gliders.

Management plan in the works

Nature Foundation owns 500,000 hectares of land in South Australia but only one property in the south-east, which is near Frances.

Chief executive Alex Nankivell said the organisation was very excited to purchase the Bullock Bridge land because of the good historical data on species in the area, including that gathered by Professor Possingham.

“When the opportunity arose to pick up another block that has such high-quality value from a biodiversity perspective and threatened species, we were more than happy to jump on that because we’ve been prioritising the landscape and looking at areas where we can contribute to more threatened species refuges throughout the region,” Mr Nankivell said.

The foundation will now start putting together a management plan for the area, looking at how it can reduce the impact of deer and foxes and possibly introduce threatened plant species.

“We’re really excited that we can now start on the management and biodiversity conservation work there,” Mr Nankivell said.

He said the foundation was keen to engage with volunteers as well as the area’s traditional owners, the Meintangk people, to look after the new land.

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