Yelverton Brook

Written by Hannah Mulvany

The high, heavy duty gates and impenetrable perimeter fence of Yelverton Brook seem much more fitting to a military barracks than conservation sanctuary, but a second after passing through the gates, you are welcomed with open arms back into nature. The security provided by the huge fences has allowed the populations of some of Australia’s most endangered species to not only live but also thrive within the safety of the walls.

Invasive species are a serious threat to the world’s wild animal populations and their effects are felt most severely on islands. This is due to many of the animals having evolved for thousands of years with limited natural predators, rendering them completely defenceless when carnivorous species are introduced. Not only are native species threatened through predation but some introduced species may also outcompete them for food, nesting areas and other resources, and genetically similar invasives may reproduce with native species, creating hybrid individuals who may, in turn, be able to outcompete both parent species. Invasive plants can alter the biology of an ecosystem to such as extent that it is no longer suitable for native species to live, especially if food plants are outcompeted for light, nutrients or space.

High-security gates keep wildlife safe inside Yelverton Brook

Australia has one of the worst cases of invasive species in the world, from the highly toxic cane toad to the deep-rooted deadly nightshade, and the widespread introductions are having an impact on most, if not all, of the country’s native species as well as its natural habitats. On entering Australia the biosecurity was like nowhere else I’ve ever visited and after just a small amount of time in the country, I can totally understand why.

Native species thrive in the predator-free environment

Cats and foxes that were brought over by Europeans gradually spread from the original settlements in the east of the Australia and have caused the extinctions of many native small mammal species in their wake, as well as reducing the populations of many bird, reptile and amphibian species. These nocturnal predatory mammals are the reasons for the fences surrounding Yelverton Brook, and their cunning and agility is the reason for enormity of the security operation. A fence even had to be placed within the underground passageway of the creek that runs under the fence to prevent any unwelcome guests, but small bandicoots and lizards can regularly be seen using the tunnels as a passageway and are happily received onto the predator-free heaven that is Yelverton Brook.

The property is covered by new-growth native bush

Inside the gates and fences of Yelverton Brook are populations of some of Australia’s most endangered species, some of which have not been seen in the local area for many years and could be locally extinct in the southwest - but not here. This sanctuary, owned by Joy and Simon Endsor, consists of 40 hectares of new-growth bush, completely encased within 2.5 kilometres of predator-proof fencing.

Predator-proof fencing surrounds the property

The sanctuary is home to the Critically Endangered woylie, also known as the brush-tailed bettong, which has suffered a decline of over 90% in the past 10 years and was once deemed to be a common and plentiful species. The woylie population exists here due to collaboration between Yelverton Brook and Perth Zoo, who have had a captive breeding programme for this continually declining species since the ‘70s. Reintroductions of this species have had varied success, with some populations soon disappearing again due to the presence of foxes and cats, and others slowing growing in size. Due to the woylie’s vulnerability to predation, reintroductions into mainland ‘islands’, areas that are completely fenced off from surrounding land, were deemed to be the most suitable solution for release and Yelverton Brook perfectly fitted the bill. The woylie introduction has been a huge success and the population is now thriving at Yelverton Brook, though unfortunately the species is still facing a very real threat of extinction – at least for now.

The bush is now naturally regenerating with minimal disturbance

Not only have the populations of marsupials within the property increased, but the behaviour of certain animals has grown bolder too. Simon noted that the brushtail possums, a species known to occasionally travel on the ground, were hardly ever seen outside of the trees due to the risk of predation. Over time the possums had regained their trust of the forest floor and are now regularly seen wandering along the ground, carefree. There are populations of the Vulnerable western ringtail possum on the property, another species that has declined due to the introduced fox and cat populations and is locally extinct in many areas in the southwest. This is another species that has been reintroduced into the ‘safe zone’ that is Yelverton Brook, in collaboration with Perth Zoo. Many western grey kangaroos call this sanctuary home too, some of which were extremely happy to come and greet me on my arrival.

Western grey kangaroos are among the animals that have recovered within Yelverton's fences

Not only is the mammalian fauna flourishing, but over bird 50 species have also been spotted on the property. As the couple are leaving the once-destroyed bush to regenerate on its own, the list will continue to grow as even more nesting and roosting spaces become available and the food supply continues to increase.

The newly regenerated vegetation provides vital habitat for burrowing and hollow-nesting wildlife

For Simon and Joy’s guests, interactions with wildlife are a daily occurrence and regularly happen right on the doorstep of their accommodation, with both the woylies and kangaroos regularly stopping by to say hello and an array of beautiful birds visit the feeding and water stations in their backyards. There are five chalets dotted around the property, each surrounded by bush. The property attracts guests from all over the world who want to spend time amongst the unique wildlife that the property has to offer and can be found in such quantities nowhere else, truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

A picnic spot set out for guests in the bush

The income from the chalets helps the couple to continue the conservation work that they started over 30 years ago, after buying the rather barren and over-grazed plot of land that they have helped to regenerate ever since. There are bush walks that can be enjoyed by visitors to the property, a long one and a short one, with dreamlike picnic spots placed along the way. As the bush has only been regenerating for 30 years there are few large trees and the flora consists of mostly ferns and prickle bushes, but the diversity within the habitat is immense and, despite me visiting at the wrong time of year to see the true colour palette, was one of the most colourful floral display I had seen in my short time in Australia.

Bushwalking tracks allow guests to explore the forests with minimal impact

Unfortunately many of the few banksias and jarrahs on the property have been affected by dieback, but there have been successful eradication techniques of this pathogen employed in other areas of the southwest and both trees have bounced back, so all is not lost. The couple report a high level of invasive plants on their property, the fight against which can be overwhelming at times. But, the woylies have developed an appetite for bindis and seem to be keeping them under control on the property, which is extremely helpful in avoiding the need to spray and causing harm to the sanctuary’s wildlife.


The regeneration of the property is an ongoing yet rewarding challenge

There is a constant and on-going battle to keep foxes and cats away due to the electric gates that allow access to the property, seen as the ‘weak link’ in the security, but the couple are extremely dedicated to the on-going success of their project and have an unlimited devotion to protecting their unique and precious wildlife. Joy and Simon never thought that they would continue their work for as long as they have, but the wildlife in their sanctuary must be very happy that they did. The couple have many dreams for the property’s future so watch this space!