Protecting threatened species in safe havens

Project start date: 01/07/2022
Project end date: 31/12/2023
NESP funding: $43,000 (GST-exclusive)

This project is assessing the current ‘safe-haven’ network, which is designed to protect predator-susceptible species, especially threatened species. Currently, safe havens are primarily designed to protect mammals from feral carnivores by fencing areas or removing predators from islands. This project is updating the status of the network to identify additional species (such as reptiles and ground-dwelling birds) that could also be protected in existing safe havens.

Feral cats and foxes are endangering many of Australia’s threatened animals. Other feral species, such as horses, camels, pigs and rabbits, may also be increasing pressure on threatened species through displacement or habitat degradation.

Safe havens are one way to protect threatened species from these increasing pressures. Safe havens can be islands, such as Faure Island in Western Australia, where predators have been removed. They can also be fenced areas, such as peninsulas (e.g. Kangaroo Island Peninsula in South Australia), which use the coastline as part of the barrier. Other safe havens include national parks, sanctuaries run by state and territory governments, and private land conservation estates, such as Scotia Sanctuary or Aussie Ark.

This project will update the list of species currently protected in these safe havens and identify species that could additionally be protected in existing safe havens. This will ensure that new safe havens account for species and ecosystems that the existing safe-haven network does not currently protect.

Key research areas

To address the challenge of increasing and novel pressures on Australia’s threatened species, this project is:

  • updating maps of the existing safe-haven network and the list of species (and number of populations) that are protected in the network
  • identifying threatened species that are susceptible to invasive predators and are not adequately represented in the current safe-haven network
  • identifying actions required to improve species representation (which new species should be included in the network, which existing species should be added to safe havens and which of these species are best suited to safe haven protection).
  • Matt Hayward walks along the fence line of a feral animal exclosure. Photo: Sydney Morning Herald.
  • Places like Kangaroo Island can also function as safe havens. Photo: Greg/Adobe Stock.
  • Determining the biological attributes (e.g. burrowing, home range, flight capabilities etc) is an important step to determine species best suited for protection in safe havens. Photo: Avril/Adobe Stock.