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Case study 4: Threatened species management in Oolambeyan National Park

from Planning for effective management

Photo: Plains-wanderer, Pedionomus torquatus R. Humphries / DEC

Plains-wanderer,
Pedionomus torquatus
R. Humphries / DEC

The most poorly conserved bioregion in New South Wales is the Riverina (see Map 5), with less than one percent of its area protected within the NSW park system. The purchase of the 22,000-hectare Oolambeyan National Park in November 2001 and its subsequent addition to the park system helped to protect a suite of threatened species including the endangered plains-wanderer (Pedionomus torquatus), a quail-like, ground-dwelling bird. The plains-wanderer prefers poorly protected, lowland native grasslands that are currently under threat from the expansion of intensive irrigation developments. The NSW population is now estimated to be only 3,100 birds.

The moderate grazing levels on this former merino stud property have afforded the long-term survival of the plains-wanderer by simulating the ideal grassland habitat no longer present in other areas. To ensure that the plains-wanderer habitat on Oolambeyan is maintained and enhanced, ecologically sensitive sheep grazing is being conducted by the NPWS. This will ensure that the plains-wanderer habitat at Oolambeyan is kept in good condition even during droughts when stock are removed.

The use of grazing as a conservation tool is unconventional and seen by some as controversial. A rigorous monitoring program has therefore been designed to ensure that natural values, particularly numbers of plains-wanderers, and habitat condition are maintained and enhanced to guide and assess the progress of the grazing program. The monitoring program was developed in consultation with the Oolambeyan Biodiversity Committee, which comprises expert ecologists, local landholders, DEC staff and experienced land managers from other agencies and other states. While the monitoring is not yet able to confirm a significant increase in the plains-wanderer population, birds were found to be breeding during the severe drought of 2002-03, something not noted anywhere else in the NSW Riverina.

While maintaining optimal habitat is important to the survival of the plains-wanderer it is also vital to control predators while the population is recovering. An intensive, cooperative, fox baiting and monitoring program is therefore under way, involving park neighbours who will also benefit from fox control in the area. The monitoring has shown that fox numbers have fallen dramatically since baiting commenced, providing both protection to plains-wanderers and to neighbouring properties during lambing.

Overall, the management of plains-wanderers and their habitat in Oolambeyan National Park provides an ongoing contribution towards arresting the population decline of this endangered species.

Page last updated: 27 February 2011