Preserving Australian nature

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Written by Rita Warleigh

February 2017

In the tiny village of Taralga in rural NSW, a team of eight volunteers are working with two supervisors to regenerate a small but very special area of natural woodland.  The area is remarkable because it has never been farmed, ploughed, grazed or changed in any other way so still contains an ecosystem that is close to what would have been there when white people arrived in Australia. It has been preserved in its natural state is because it was set aside for future use as a cemetery. Like many cemetery reserves, it is valued by environmentalists because it contains species of native grasses and flowers that are now rare.

Weeds have been introduced by seeds blowing in from surrounding farms, from seeds carried on clothing of visitors and from sheep and cattle that occasionally are allowed to graze there by neighbouring farmers. IVP has been working to regenerate the area with teams of international volunteers for the last three years. Various methods are used to eradicate large and small weeds.  Trees and shrubs are planted to ensure habitat for a variety of birds as we remove the lower strata of bushy weeds.  Progress is slow but positive.

During each of the workcamps, we include a workshop with the local primary school and each time we focus on a particular area of environmental education.  This time we worked with the children to build nest boxes for gliders.  These are tiny nocturnal animals that live in tree hollows. They have a membrane between their front and back legs allow them to glide long distances between trees.  However a tree needs to be close to 100 years old to develop suitable hollows, and unfortunately there is now a shortage of suitable habitat due to practices of cutting down large trees for timber and to create grazing land.  The nest boxes that we built with the children will be put up in trees to provide the right habitat until trees are old enough to make hollows.

The workcamp has been interesting and educational.  Fun activities were also included such as joining a local country dance, visiting kangaroos in the wild, trekking over wild country to a swimming hole, visiting a museum, and a tour of a limestone cave system.

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