Rewilding the Desert: FAUNA Research Alliance staff show off some desert wildlife


What is Rewilding?

Rewilding is one of the most exciting movements in conservation ecology.  The concept, originally developed in the 1990s in the US and now gaining popularity worldwide, focuses on re-establishing natural areas and self-regulating ecosystems that require less human intervention over time.  It’s about turning back the clock on human interference with nature.

Perhaps you’ve heard about the program to reintroduce wolves to Yellowstone National Park, or beavers into Scotland.  The presence or absence of these species can have a huge and complex effect on other species living in the environment, from mammals right down to fungus.

When wolves returned to Yellowstone, this affected herbivores’ grazing patterns, which in turn improved woodland biodiversity.  As biodiversity improved, river systems changed, and beavers returned.  In Yellowstone and in Scotland, beavers act as ecosystem engineers.  They build dams, effectively creating wetlands, which reduce flooding and improve the health of rivers and the forests around them.


Bettongs are soil engineers, and help distribute native plant seeds.

In Australia, rewilding efforts focus on re-establishing populations of native carnivores like dingoes and quolls, which could reduce the effects of feral cats and foxes, and soil engineers like bandicoots and bettongs, whose digging helps distribute native plant seeds and fungus to restore habitat, bringing our landscapes back to their original wild diversity.

“Rewilding does not seek to control the natural world, to re-create a particular ecosystem or landscape, but – having brought back some of the missing species – to allow it to find its own way.” – George Monbiot, author of “Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding”

The techniques used in rewilding include creating protected spaces and corridors for wildlife, supporting native species to re-establish themselves, monitoring their effects on the ecosystem, then eventually removing fences and other interventions as the ecosystem becomes self-supporting.

Rewilding the Desert

FAUNA Research Alliance LogoIn early 2016 Conservation Volunteers Australia entered the rewilding arena with our Rewilding the Desert program.  Together with the FAUNA Research Alliance we are working to rewild Australia’s deserts, starting with our properties in the Wimmera region of Western Victoria.

Our five core goals are:

  1. Reintroducing wildlife to bring Australian wildlife back from the brink
  2. Building a renowned desert conservation centre
  3. Working across the landscape to recreate functional desert ecosystems
  4. Nurturing an engaged community dedicated to sharing knowledge
  5. Creating a hub of participatory, hands-on learning

The Rewilding the Desert initiative brings together FAUNA Research Alliance’s scientific expertise, Conservation Volunteers’ experience in engaging volunteers in hands-on conservation activities, and Little Desert Nature Lodge as a hub for nature-based learning and experiencing the region.

As part of Rewilding the Desert, we will be exploring the reintroduction and management of species including:

  • Western quoll (vulnerable)
  • Spot-tailed quoll (endangered)
  • Red-tailed black cockatoo (endangered)
  • Malleefowl (vulnerable)
  • Numbat (vulnerable)
  • Red-tailed phascogale (endangered)
  • Western barred bandicoot (endangered)
  • Bilby (vulnerable)
  • Burrowing Bettong (vulnerable)
  • Brush-tailed Bettong (endangered)

(Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) listing is shown in brackets.)

Watch this video to learn more about Rewilding the Desert:

Our site: Little Desert, in Western Victoria

Conservation Volunteers manages around 1500ha of land in the Little Desert area, including two 120ha properties, Little Desert Nature Lodge and The Sanctuary, that are already enclosed by a predator-proof fences.