Ecologist Helen Crisp holds one of Australia's most endangered species, the Western Barred Bandicoot, just before releasing it back into the wild.
"You're going to be famous little one", she says.
With the support of Australian Mining, so too will the ground breaking research conducted by Helen and the team at Arid Recovery.
This world-class conservation and research program started back in 1997, and was an idea born from some passionate individuals in the environmental department at the nearby mine.
Arid Recovery is now an independent, not-for-profit conservation initiative and a unique example of a highly successful partnership between industry, government, research and community: the four-way joint support of the project existing between BHP Billiton, The South Australian Department for Environment and Natural Resources, The University of Adelaide, and of course the local community.
The program is centred on a 123 square kilometre fenced reserve that protects a range of native plants and animals in South Australia's arid zone. This patch of land straddles a mining lease, and represents proof that, in some cases, conservation can happily co-exist side-by-side with mining.
Steve Green, the Sustainability Manager for BHP Billiton in Adelaide says that Arid Recovery's primary goal was to "remove feral animals from an exclosure area, and to reintroduce species that we knew existed in the region."
Feral cats, rabbits and foxes have now been successfully eradicated from half of the Reserve and this has provided a zone of complete protection into which four species of locally extinct mammals have been successfully reintroduced, including the Western Barred Bandicoot, the Greater Bilby, the Greater Stick Nest Rat and the Burrowing Bettong.
As Helen says, these four "strange and quirky" species are now thriving within the Reserve. Additional species can look forward to being reintroduced in the very near future.
This is the largest reserve of its kind in arid Australia and a world leader in ecosystem restoration through the use of exclusion fencing. Marty Kittel has worked for BHP Billiton as an underground miner for 25 years, but he's also proud to say he looks after the fencing of the Arid Recovery Reserve. "Roughly once a week I check the fence and give it a good once over."
The CEO of Arid Recovery, Kylie Piper says, "You can count on one hand the number of predators that have been inside the fence since it was built. That's an amazing feat".
But the long term goal is more effective methods of large scale feral species control beyond the fence.
This involves research that underpins the main aim of the project: Arid Recovery has undertaken ground-breaking research trialling aerial baiting for feral cats and radio-tracking cats and foxes with GPS collars to gain a greater understanding of their behaviour.
The program's success is thanks to unwavering support, not only from Australian Mining, but also from many volunteers, including locals and university students. In fact, Arid Recovery now has an active student scholarship program offering placements to students.
As Kylie Piper says, "it's a collaboration of people. It's mining, government, research, and education."
Arid Recovery represents a new breed of thinking that demonstrates how mining and conservation organisations can work together to benefit the environment.
Australian Mining's vision is that the sustainable land management techniques developed by the team at Arid Recovery will be adopted in arid areas not only here, but throughout the world.
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