Most Australian‘s outside of South Australia will not have heard the story of the Warrawong Wildlife sanctuary at Mylor South in the Adelaide Hills.
Thousands of South Australians however will have treasured memories of visiting Warrawong, often taking with them visiting friends from interstate and overseas, to introduce them to Australia’s rare and endangered indigenous fauna.
The World Renowned Warrawong Wildlife sanctuary
Warrawong has a unique appeal. To my knowledge it is the only facility in Australia where the public is able to view Australia’s wonderful little nocturnal animals, flourishing happily in their natural habitat.
Prior to 1969 it was a 35 acre home to a dairy herd and environmentally degraded and desolate. To this was later added another 50 acres of adjacent land. The transformation under Dr John Wamsley was amazing.
Grasslands, bogs, waterways and lakes replaced the old dams and overgrazed pasture. He added a large stand of rapidly growing blue gums to form a small native plantation forest next to relatively untouched stringy-bark Eucalypt scrub.
This breathtakingly beautiful setting became home to the little nocturnal native animals he introduced after ensuring the property was feral-proof. The highlight of one’s visit was a 90 minute night walk; a walk of discovery to perhaps catch a glimpse of a platypus in one of the lakes and to watch the many precious little animals scurrying around on the ground foraging for food. and playing with each other.
A challenge to walkers was to learn from their guide how to distinguish between brush-tailed and rufous bettongs, potoroo, pademelon, bandicoot, brushtail and ring-tail possums, quoll, Bilby and Tammar Wallaby. Altogether Warrawong is home to over 100 native mammal and bird species.
A magic experience before or after the walk was dining in the Bilby Cafe, watching little animals and small seed and honey eating birds flutter about in an illuminated feeding area.
There is nothing comparable to Warrawong anywhere else in the world to my knowledge. Quite unique, and here in South Australia. Warrawong has been an inspiring example to our children of the joy to be found in caring for the environment. They have been able to see our own nocturnal native animals in their own environment.
The decline and End of Warrawong
Many will deeply regret the passing of this iconic South Australian project painstakingly built up by Dr Walmsley who was honoured in 2003 as the Prime Minister’s Environmentalist of the Year.
It is incredible that it is the Hills Local Government Council that has precipitated closure of Warrawong by banning over-night stays in the five month bushfire period. You would think that they would be willing to build the required refuge building themselves to safe-guard the survival of such an important program. They could be a partner in the project.
The buck is now passed to the Ngarrindjeri people to decide the future of this declining asset. Warrawong has lost money, and the present operator, Zoos SA has its own financial woes and can’t help. The SA government is deeply in debt and has recently reneged on a commitment to spend some $3 million to purchase new art works for the state. Their priorities are astray when they are willing to spend $1.5 billion on the Adelaide Oval re-development, but can’t spare a few bucks to rescue Warrawong.
Where there is a will there’s a way!
There are many options that could be considered. They can be divided into two categories:
- Increase funding and cut expenses.
- Increase revenue by advertising, and providing extra attractions.
The State government should increase the funding of Zoos SA.
- Zoos SA is a provider of major tourist attractions for the State.
- Zoos SA educates our children on the diversity of life and the value of conservation.
- Zoos SA is already playing a part in the survival of endangered species around the world. Why not our own native animals endangered by human intrusion in their habitats.
The Local Council should seize the chance to play a role. They could become a partner in the project, provide publicity and rally community support.
Service clubs such as Rotary, Lions, and Kiwanis are more than happy to support such worthwhile community projects by raising funds, and providing their labour free of charge.
There should be a Friends of Warrawong voluntary support group, if there isn’t already.
Perhaps the greatest obstacle to marketing Warrawong Sanctuary is that the chief attraction is the small nocturnal animals. They need to be seen in the evening.
There are many ways in which the facility could attract more day visitors. Here are some suggestions:
- A darkened enclosure to simulate their natural habitat, for viewing nocturnal animals in the day.
- A children’s zoo, and play area.
- An art-gallery of Aboriginal art-works for purchase.
- Short concerts and films featuring Aboriginal artists
- A native plant nursery – perhaps a branch of an existing commercial nursery.
- A Museum of the history of Warrawong, Aboriginal culture, and environmental issues.
My hope is that someone, somewhere with the vision and will to succeed, will come forward before it is too late, and find practical solutions, instead of just giving up.
Mammals found at Warrawong include:
Birds commonly found at Warrawong include: