Environment SA News

Healthy country the aim for renamed rewilding project

The Great Southern Ark, an innovative land management project on southern Yorke Peninsula, has been renamed Marna Banggara to honour the district’s Traditional Custodians, the Narungga People.

Healthy country the aim for renamed rewilding project
Main photo: Garry Goldsmith

The name comes from Narungga dialect, with marna meaning ‘healthy or prosperous’ and banggara signifying ‘Country’. It reflects the project’s aim to improve economic and agricultural outcomes by enhancing biodiversity and the health of the district’s natural systems.

Narungga Nation Aboriginal Corporation Business Manager Garry Goldsmith said renaming the project was a significant milestone.

“Using our language for this project means more than a name,” he said.

“It means there’s a sense of support from the wider community to acknowledge the Narungga people as the Traditional Owners, who have looked after this Country for thousands of years.

“We want to make the Country healthy again and returning some of the native animals is an integral part of this. Hopefully they will thrive and help ensure that our flora also continues to grow and flourish.”

Marna Banggara is based on a model of rewilding that involves returning native species that can help restore the landscape’s ecological function. It is unique from most other rewilding projects in that the project area is part of a working landscape, where agriculture, local business, the community and reintroduced species will co-exist.

As reflected in the new name, it is hoped Marna Banggara will deliver benefits to other facets of Yorke Peninsula, such as improved lamb survival rates for farmers and eventually new eco-tourism opportunities that allow the local economy and community to continue to prosper.

After a decade of planning, the first locally extinct species, the Brush-tailed bettong, is due to be released on southern Yorke Peninsula in autumn next year.

Healthy country the aim for renamed rewilding project
Brush-tailed bettong: photo by Zoos SA

In preparation, the project team is continuing its fox and feral cat control and monitoring activities. Five release sites have been selected in remnant vegetation south-west of Warrenben Conservation Park.

Landscape ecologist Grace Hodder said finding ideal sites to rehome these small, nocturnal creatures was an important part of the project.

“Forty different locations on private and public land were surveyed in an attempt to give the reintroduced animals the best chance of survival,” she said.

“Preferred sites have dense, shrubby cover that will allow the brush-tailed bettongs to seek shelter from predators and also leaf litter and sticks, which can be used for nest building.”

The translocation of bettongs from regional Western Australia will be a major milestone in the project’s species reintroduction plans, which include translocating another three key native species and augmenting the existing barn owl population.

The southern Yorke Peninsula’s distinctive geography as a ‘mainland island’ makes it an ideal area for these translocations. It is surrounded by sea on three sides with uninterrupted farmland to the north, providing an isolated area that also has large areas of high-quality native vegetation.

The project is led by the Northern and Yorke Landscape Board, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and the South Australian Department for Environment and Water, WWF Australia and Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife. Other partners actively involved in developing the project are Zoos SA, FAUNA Research Alliance, BirdLife Australia, Nature Conservation Society of SA, Narungga Nation Aboriginal Corporation, Primary Producers SA, Primary Industries and Regions SA, Conservation Volunteers Australia, Legatus Group, Yorke Peninsula Council, Yorke Peninsula Tourism, Regional Development Australia, South Australian Tourism Commission and the Scientific Expedition Group.

For more information about Marna Banggara, contact the Northern and Yorke Landscape Board at Clare on 8841 3400.