Saturday, 8 June 2013

Nadjunuga Wildlife Refuge, on the South-East coast of Australia, is managed for the purposes of conservation, BioBanking, carbon sinking and recreational activity like adventure-tourism.  

For thirty seven years, the owner's biological science background has informed the management of the refuge, which is situated within the Red Rocks district of Cambewarra Mountain, NSW, Australia.

The word 'Nadjunuga' is from the local Indigenous Yuin language and translates as old man mountain - his white hair is the mist captured by trees as it passes inland from the sea, is uplifted by the mountain, or is itself emitted by the trees on the mountain as part of the water cycle (Source: the late Uncle Frank Mumbler from Mumbulla Mountain, filmed and interviewed many times by the blogger).

The 16 hectare refuge has very high conservation values in both flora and fauna and is listed on the NSW BioBanking site. Nadjunuga Wildlife Refuge contains sites of significance to the Indigenous Yuin Nation. 

The Nadjunuga walking-trail blog (here) simulates a journey, a walk, leading to the actual wildlife refuge, along the southern boundary of the neighbour's adjoining block, over which Nadjunuga has easement.

The Nadjunuga property is a north facing property, which holds an unusual species abundance, due to its pockets of rich volcanic soil (Gerringong tuff origin) and sheltered habitat.

The property has thick tree cover, essentially temperate rain-forest, and the elevation is around 500 meters (above sea level), giving views across Kangaroo Valley to the North.

[See: Bann, G. R., and B. G. Jones. "The Coolangatta Latite Member and associated tuffs: newly identified basal units in the Gerringong Volcanics, southern Sydney Basin, NSW."]

[See also:]

Nadjunuga Wildlife Refuge aims one day to offset a development somewhere in the immediate region of Kangaroo Valley (similar habitat) within a biodiversity BioBanking agreement. 

To achieve this aim, Nadjunuga Wildlife Refuge will have to undergo ongoing and complete habitat counts of the species that are likely to be dislodged in the development that it will offset: such as a hotel and golf course, or holiday housing development, or the like.

Such BioBanking offset arrangements can only be set into law once the property being offered as the offset is thoroughly assessed through scientific method. Assessment determines it as significant, with healthy habitats and balanced ecosystems - complete with original native flora and fauna. 

This status can only be established once the research is conducted into every species present, and then programs undertaken to eradicate feral species like the fox and weeds, should they be present.

The conservation area contains Brown Barrel (Eucalyptus fastigata) Tall Open Forest, including species such as Turpentine (Syncarpia glomulifera) and Monkey Gum (Eucalyptus cypellocarpa).

The conservation area also contains riparian closed forest dominated by Lilly Pilly (Acmena smithii), Native Daphene (Pittosporum undulatum), and Coachwood (Ceratopetalum apetalum). 

Coachwood and other rain-forest species are regionally uncommon this far south, or they are at their southern limit in the area, or they are occurring as disjunct populations in the area.

A fauna and flora assessment was made in 1997 identifying some of the threatened animal species found at the property:

Southern Brown Bandicoot      Isoodon obesulus
Tiger Quoll                                  Dasyurus maculatus
White-footed Dunnart                Sminthopsis leucopus
Koala                                           Phascolarctos cinereus

Long-nosed Potoroo                  Potorous tridactylus
Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby        Petrogale penicillata
Yellow-bellied Sheathtail Bat    Saccolaimus flavientris
Great Barred Frog                      Mixophyes balbus
Powerful Owl                              Ninox strenua
Eastern Bristle Bird                    Dasyornis brachypterus
Olive Whistler                             Pachycephala olivacea
Glossy-black cockatoo              Calyptorhynchus lathami
Rose-crowned Pigeon               Ptilinopus regina
Purple-crowned Pigeon             Ptilinopus superbus
Greater Broad-nosed Bat          Scoteanax ruppellii
Common Bent-wing Bat            Miniopterus schreibersii
Little Bent-wing Bat                   Miniopterus australis 

Recent mammal surveys and scat analyses in 2014 on Nadjunuga revealed foxes and feline cats, which means the quoll (the Eastern, the spotted tail or the tiger quoll) that were present at the time of the last survey (1997), may now
 be extinct, or severely endangered due to this habitat competition from foxes in particular.

Quolls are habitat generalists, so in the absence of competition from introduced carnivores, they occupy the top carnivore position. Their presence (or absence) is also naturally related to their habitat’s use by humans, in terms of disturbance (logging, agriculture, recreation use); and the abundance of the quoll’s prey.

In surveying Nadjunuga we will provide crucial information on how well the quolls and other species respond to these disturbances (logging, agriculture, recreation use) in their environment and whether this impacts upon their survival. 

Such information is of fundamental importance to the long-term survival of the quoll, and this is critical to any biodiversity agreement in the future. Surveys also need to be ongoing so that management of Nadjunuga continues within an informed approach, and so that strategies can be mounted to re-balance the habitat.

The ‘walking trail’ to the property, as transect, was built over 2012 to 2015 and this was funded through a grant from the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife. 

GPO Box 2666, Sydney, NSW, Australia 2001. 

Ph: 02 9221 1949. 

The ‘walking trail’ was designed to gain peaceful recreational access to Nadjunuga Wildlife Refuge while also using the trail as a scientific survey transect. 

The property has a Right of Carriageway, which was surveyed, across the adjoining property (Lot 283). Parts of the Right of Carriageway are now serving as this ‘walking trail’, which is a pleasant walk meandering occasionally within the easement co-ordinates (15 Wide), thus enabling access to the property without visual ‘contamination’ from the adjoining properties’ farm buildings and machinery.

Due to the Wildlife Refuge’s high conservation values it is listed as a potential BioBanking site. Should it be listed as an offset site, management obligations will be applied: such as fencing, as part of the requirements, when the maintenance of the BioBanking site becomes mandatory. A fence, for instance, will prevent potential grazing animals (currently horses) and even motorcycles and quad machines from venturing onto Lot 41 and down to Nugents Creek – tributary to Kangaroo Valley River and within Sydney Water Catchment area.

A number of rare, even endangered, flora and fauna species have been identified on the property. The property is unique, sheltered by high cliffs that form boundaries on three sides, the only open and relatively vulnerable side is the fourth (Western) boundary shared with Lot 283.

The walking trail will serve as an ecological survey transect so that research can be conducted to determine the status of the biodiversity in and around Nadjunuga Wildlife Refuge. University of Wollongong researchers are planning to bring post-graduate science students to the area to conduct ecological fieldwork.

This fieldwork (initially) will be applied only on the access-walking trail, one of the reasons for its original construction, as funded by the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife. The walking trail, as research transect, is ideal for fieldwork because it is less likely to have leeches and it is far less likely for students to get lost - it is well defined. Nadjunuga Wildlife Refuge, on the other hand, is predominantly rain-forest and teeming with leeches and has 80 meter cliffs on the northern boundary that may be dangerous for a lost researcher and their equipment. 

Similarly, we want to maintain the best possible security for the research equipment that will be used to survey, and we are hoping on capturing records of quolls, rather than foxes as we discovered in 2014. The last professional survey on Nadjunuga Wildlife Refuge was conducted in 1997 and quolls were identified as present at the time. 

Data obtained along the walking trail may also be used to help determine if quolls have a preference for old growth open forest, as compared to logged forest, or rainforest. The survey methods used may also determine differences in prey abundance across the study transect, to determine if habitat use is correlated to the density of prey items. We will also use satellite technology to accurately determine the coordinates of the walking trail and produce a map of the walking track for its continued use for scientific and educational purposes.

The quoll is an iconic Australian marsupial that is scientifically grouped (Order: Dasyuromorphia) with the now extinct Tasmanian tiger (Thylacine). Very little was known about the biology and ecology of the Tasmanian tiger before it became extinct. While a moderate level of knowledge exists for the quoll, this information predominantly relates to aspects of the species general ecology.  Little is known as to which habitats they prefer at landscape levels in particular in disturbed landscapes. By communicating the findings of our research through publication and on this blog, Australians will benefit by having a deeper understanding of the animal itself, given that there is very little recent information on spotted-tailed quoll biology.

An informed public is a responsible public and if the general public know how to identify a quoll and its habitat, they are likely to act with respect towards the animal and its home and by doing so know that they are contributing to protecting an iconic Australian species from extinction.

The owner / manager of Nadjunuga Wildlife Refuge made a contribution in 2014 to the NSW biodiversity legislation review and sent a submission to the Independent Biodiversity Legislation Review Panel. The panel has now completed its final report and has submitted it to the NSW Government. The panel’s final report can be viewed here:

The Government is now considering the panel’s findings and recommendations.

For further information and to register your interest in receiving more information about the review in the future, please visit:

Nadjunuga is dedicated therefore to supporting adventure, science and the community. 

Adventure: the fieldwork will be conducted in remote areas that are steep, even dangerously precipitous, with areas of dense rainforest, immediately within a world heritage area – the Illawarra escarpment and Kangaroo Valley. Understanding the bush and wildlife and developing a sense for adventure is needed to surmount the trying fieldwork conditions likely to be encountered. 

Science: the research is based on sound scientific theory and practice. It is a project that is scientifically informed and will contribute to the field of conservation biology through the publication of scientific manuscripts, presentation of data at international conferences and meetings. 

Community: the propose research cannot be completed without the help of students, volunteers and local community members. Also, we will seek out members of the local communities near Nadjunuga to inform us where they have seen quolls. Seminars will be delivered to local community groups (e.g. Landcare groups, natural history societies) communicating the findings of the field surveys conducted at Nadjunuga.

See: Nathalie Butt, Paula Afonso de Oliveira, and Marcos Heil Costa (2011) Evidence that deforestation affects the onset of the rainy season in Rondonia, Brazil. Journal of Geophysical Research, VOL. 116.

Posted by David Blackall  BSc (Agric), Dip Ed, MA (Jour), PhD
PO Box U82
Wollongong University
Wollongong, 2500
Mobile: 0414 838784
Skype: dblackal