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Tracks in the dunes

Published 21 Dec 2010 

Nella Lithgow describes the life and work she shares with fellow Reserve Manager and husband Mark (and all the critters).

Nella and Ruth Lithgow - tracks in the dunesNella and Mark Lithgow – Reserve Managers at Bush Heritage's Cravens Peak and Ethabuka Reserves. Photo: Peter Morris


Mark and I love the adventure and challenge of this job. We have a monumental piece of outback to take care of, and it’s magnificent.

Walking over a sand dune in the morning is a delight. The dunes are full of tracks heading in all directions.

Map of Cravens Peak Reserve

You can see where animals met up the previous night, and that a dispute went on in another spot, followed by a chase. It’s like a big storybook.

Controlling the ferals

In the past year, one of our biggest projects has been to control feral animals, which range from cats through to camels.

We’ve had far fewer camels on the property since we dried up the dams they liked to drink from.

We’ve also repaired fence lines to help control feral animals and keep cattle off the property. Fencing, along with de-stocking, has meant there’s far more in the way of smaller shrubs and trees coming up because they haven’t been trampled and eaten.

As the vegetation has increased, so has the number of native animals. Our smaller rodents and mammals are having a great time now and our birdlife has increased enormously.

At the moment, the place is full of budgies. That means there’s plenty of food and lots of seeds that come from the extra vegetation.

Animal tracks in the desert sands'You can see where animals met up the previous night, and that a dispute went on in another spot, followed by a chase'. Photo: John and Lyla Hansen

Growing local interest in conservation

We’re working in cattle country and we’re the odd ones out.

Saying that, I’m optimistic about the future of conservation. People often ask us about plants they’ve found on their properties. When our ecologist Max Tischler was here, workers from neighbouring stations came over and were full of questions about the animal life in the area.

We’re making a difference – and farmers and locals are starting to see that. When you can see the changes in people in these more conservative areas, that’s a positive thing.

Cravens Peak and Ethabuka reserves were purchased with the assistance of the Australian Government. The reserves are managed for nature conservation as part of the National Reserve System. We would also like to acknowledge the Nature Conservancy for their generous support of this work.

Interview by Fiona Rutkay

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