Saving our endangered species at Secret Creek

By Allison Garoza 18 August 2015
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Secret Creek is where animals go to thrive. And it’s where Allison Garoza got to see a host of our precious native species

THE HOWL OF A DINGO resounds in a valley flanked by gum trees. In the following silence slim leaves rustle, then fade beneath the answer of the dingo’s kin.

The howls cause a brush-tailed rock wallaby to pause. Her ears swivel to locate the sound. Deeming it a safe distance, she resumes grazing beside a gentle creek, her joey snug inside her pouch.

I grab my tripod, sling my camera over my shoulder and try to suppress a squeal of delight. I don’t usually gush, but animals are my kryptonite. I turn back into my seven-year-old self, infatuated with wildlife docos and confused why my family doesn’t want to watch a lion disembowel a zebra as we eat.

To my right I see a dingo. On the other side of the fence I see a pademelon, and inside the long wooden building to my left I know there are quolls. Quolls! I am in zoology geek heaven; I am at Secret Creek Sanctuary.

Secret Creek a conservation haven for endangered species

Nestled in the Blue Mountains, the 250 hectares of protected bushland was founded by Trevor Evans. A former coal miner turned full-time conservationist and Australian Geographic’s 2010 Conservationist of the Year, Trevor is dedicated to protecting Australia’s rare native animals.

He co-founded the Australian Ecosystems Foundation Incorporated, which owns another 1000 acres around Secret Creek. The foundation collaborates with conservationists to protect Australia’s native fauna, and plays a large role in the efforts of Secret Creek Sanctuary.

I’m here to film as many animals as I can, along with my friend John. Trevor meets us outside the sanctuary’s restaurant, where a wallaroo named Riley lounges by the front door. We shake hands with Trevor, get ignored by Riley, and set up our gear. Two emus strut toward John, attracted to the fuzzy cover on the boom mic.

Trevor asks where we’d like to start. ‘Quolls!’ I squeak, in a not particularly dignified manner. Trevor smiles and leads us toward the long wooden building where rock wallabies hop along the roof.

The quolls of Secret Creek

Secret Creek breeds threatened native species such as purebred dingoes, brush-tailed rock wallabies, red-necked pademelons, and rufous bettongs, but their flagship species is the eastern quoll.

A cousin of the Tasmanian devil, quolls are primarily nocturnal, about the size of a small cat, have spots on their back and probably seem quite terrifying to the insects and rodents that make up a large part of their diet. Their coat ranges from black to fawn with white spots on their backs.

Due to deforestation, predation and disease brought by invasive species, eastern quolls are extinct on mainland Australia. Trevor has established the largest captive breeding population of eastern quolls in New South Wales, with the hope of reintroducing them to their former range.

Trevor is tall, and when he holds a quoll the animal is dwarfed by his large hands but he cares for his animals with great tenderness. I ask him what made him dedicate his life to conserving these rare and often unheard of animals.

He smiles, pets the quoll, and says, “The effort here is to obviously save them so that my grandkids get to see them and your grandkids get to see them and hopefully they’ll be back in the wild very soon.”

We spend the day filming around the sanctuary and discover the animals are quite friendly. When John sits on a log he gets a surprise kiss from Bundy the alpine dingo. We leave the enclosure and John’s emu entourage is waiting for him. As we walk toward the tiger quoll building a cockatoo looks at John and calls out a seductive, ‘Hello?’ At least Riley the wallaroo is still playing hard to get.

As night falls and the dingo calls fade, we bid our goodbyes. I thank Trevor for the work he has done and John thanks the emus for their adoration.

Secret Creek Sanctuary is a vital part of the fight to protect Australia’s native wildlife, and the wildlife is lucky to have Trevor on their side. With his tireless efforts, help from his team of volunteers, and donations to the Australian Ecosystems Foundation Incorporated, Australia’s animals are being given a second chance to crawl, hop and run upon the land their ancestors once called home.

If you’d like to see special wildlife presentations and get a closer look at some native animals, the Australian Ecosystems Foundation Inc. is having a Member’s Open Day on 6 September 2015 at Secret Creek.