Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary – expansive, ambitious and visionary

Work is underway at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary north-west of Alice Springs to create a feral animal-free zone by building a 44-kilometre fence. It has been described as the largest feral cat eradication project in the world, and will eventually span 100,000 hectares. It’s ambitious, audacious and visionary.

Australian Wildlife Conservancy want to get rid of feral cats. At the moment the best method is building a fence, eradicating feral animals from within it, and reintroducing native animals. Also, weeds, mismanaged fire, and other feral animals were the biggest threats to Australia’s native animal population. So, by keeping feral animals out, it is hoped the sanctuary will see the return of 10 native species, including the central rock rat, mala, numbats, bilbies and phascogales.

The Shark Bay Mouse is one of 10 creatures to benefit from a $10million cat-proof fence being built in the central desert region to help combat an extinction crisis. Australian Wildlife Conservancy chief executive Atticus Fleming said 30 native mammal species had disappeared since European settlement — the worst extinction rate on the planet.

(image: Shark Bay Mouse -

Fleming’s being very cautious- easy to blame the “feral animals” out there, and they are the local threat, but he’s silent about urbanisation, livestock industries, land clearing and agricultural expansion?  He claims there are up to 11million feral cats across the country, “threatening at least 60 native mammals that are currently in danger of extinction. They include bilbies, numbats, bettongs and rock wallabies.

Cats are domestic animals, pets owned by people. People fail to care for them, allow them to over-breed, and then escape, and they end up feral- eking out a living by killing!
They are a human-caused problem and cat ownership must be more regulated, with mandatory desexing and microchipping.

Allard maintains that, once the feral animals have been culled, the native population will be reintroduced and at least 10 native species should begin to thrive once more.

Once the fence is complete and feral animals are cleared from inside, at least 10 endangered mammals will be reintroduced, including some species that have been gone from the region for ­decades. Among them is the mala, or rufous hare-wallaby, which was once common in central Australia but has existed only in captivity since 1991. Local Warlpiri men and women have been employed by the AWC to construct the enclosure, first by operating the machinery needed to establish the fence.

19th-century explorers such as Ernest Giles, who encountered an abundance of native mammals, wrote in his journal that the hills in central Australia “swarmed” with rock-wallabies. (now they would be described as a “plague” and “over-abundant”)  That species is now seriously endangered. Australians colonial expansion has been devastating on our wildlife, and now we are the biggest mammal exterminators of the modern world!

The Newhaven eradication fence will reportedly be nearly two metres high, with a curved top and netting at the base to deter animals seeking to get in or out of the premises. “There will be two electric wires as well that run on the outside,” Newhaven manager Joe Schofield confirms.

-The feral-proof fence will be constructed by early 2018.
-The removal of feral cats and foxes will occur during 2017/18.
-The reintroduction of endangered mammals will start in early 2019.
-Stage one will cost around $5 million over the next four years.

Donations to AWC are tax deductible.


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