Mulligans Flat – Turning Back Time in Australia
By: Mike Jerrard
Australia is known for its spectacular and sometimes strange wildlife. We all know of its kangaroos and koalas but there are quite a number of animals that many may not have heard of. The land down under is the land of the marsupials which not only include the kangaroos but also species like the numbats, potoroos, quolls, dunnarts, and bettongs. They sound like names created for some fictional children’s fairy tale novel but exist they in fact do.
Stunning Mulligans Landscape Southern Boobook Owl
Sadly as Europeans made their way to the once pristine island continent, they brought with them predators and pests which have wreaked havoc with native ecosystems. This caused species to become extinct in areas throughout Australia. Many species only found survival possible on islands such as Tasmania which stayed mostly free of the new dangers.
Thankfully in today’s day of embracing conservation efforts, volunteers and organizations are attempting to right the wrongs of our early settlers and turn back the clock to a more diverse and wild Australia. Mulligans Flat in Canberra’s north is doing just that and has created a magical place where one can get a glimpse of the authentic wild bush land and just minutes from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Unlike a zoo in almost every aspect, visitors are rewarded with a real wild experience where one never knows what they will come across. Although a 1.8 meter fence does enclose the sanctuary this is only for the protection of the native wildlife as it keeps out predators such as foxes, cats, and rabbits. The electrified fence has made it possible for the reintroduction of species that have been exterminated from the area or mainland Australia altogether, animals like the Eastern bettong and Eastern quoll. Both species have been introduced to the sanctuary thanks to individuals relocated from Tasmania.
Bush Stone Curlew Eastern Bettong
Other species like the eerie sounding bush stone curlew and New Holland mouse also call the sanctuary home and plans are to introduce more species in the future such as goannas and bandicoots.
clockwise From Left to right: Grey Kangaroo, echidna, sulphur crested cockatoo
I try to avoid reserves or sanctuaries that don’t have a natural feel about them. I prefer to photograph wildlife in a natural setting where mother nature is allowed to take its course. Mulligans allows you the opportunity to experience the beautiful landscape while offering the possibilities of incredible wildlife sightings. Nothing is guaranteed but that is the beauty of it. You are however bound to see wildlife and a great variety at that. Birds dominate the area and MF is one of the best places in the A.C.T. to see such a diverse array of species including birds of prey, waterbirds, songbirds, and parrots.
from left to right: grey kangaroo, red necked wallaby, swamp wallaby
On the mammalian side of sightings you will find yourself hiking among large numbers of grey kangaroos as well as red necked and swamp wallabies. Be on the lookout during spring and summer for its healthy population of echidnas as well. Add in reptiles such as long necked turtles, brown snakes, and adorable blue tongued shingleback lizards to name a few and you have a truly incredible array of wildlife.
eastern brown snake shingleback lizard
You will find a number of entrances via the suburb of Forde and once inside the predator proof fence you will find a number of exist gates along with maps which show you where you are located. The area is quite large so a number of visits may be needed to explore the entire area.
While in the area I recommend hiking through Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve as well as Mount Majura. Yellow tailed black cockatoos cry out from the pine forests while huge wedge tailed eagles soar over the grasslands. Here you will also find red foxes which despite being destructive to the ecosystem are quite exciting to observe. As mammal predators are quite rare in Australia they offer the only real glimpse of large predators other than the dingo now that the thylacine is no longer with us. And although I fully understand the necessity of poison baiting foxes and rabbits it is tragic to see beautiful creatures killed due the ignorance and fault of our own species.
clockwise from left to right: yellow tailed black cockatoo, red fox, mulligans landscape
Mulligans Flat Visitor Information
The Sanctuary is open during daylight hours and also offers guided night tours which make sighting sugar gliders, bettongs, and tawny frogmouths possible
The sanctuary may be closed at times due to rabbit/kangaroo culls as well as during bush fire dangers. Please make note of and adhere to any posted signs on the entrance gates. Also remember to close and lock all gates behind you. This is vital to retaining the ecosystem they are recreating within the fence.
Remote cameras are used to monitor species so please do not disturb or interfere with any setups.
Parking and access can be found off of Amy Ackman St and Eric Wright St in Forde and access and parking are free of charge.
Maps are available within the reserve as well as online
Be sure to check out Jerrabomberra Wetlands, also part of the woodlands and wetlands trust, on the eastern edge of Lake Burley Griffin. Here you will find a great variety of waterbirds from ibises to spoonbills as well as many species of raptors.
clockwise from left to right: sulphur crested cockatoo, black fronted dotterel, eastern rosella
Mulligans Flat and Zealandia in Wellington, New Zealand have recently signed a partnership which will allow them to share ideas, staff, and promotion. Zealandia has been successful in reintroducing some 18 species that has been absent from Mainland New Zealand for more than a century. Zealandia offers visitors a much larger scale sanctuary than Mulligans as well as numerous facilities including a cafe, a store, and greater accessibility features. Although I am sure the experience is worth while I hope Mulligans Flat does not follow exactly in its footsteps.
Canberra hopes to make Mulligans Flat an eco-tourism destination much like Zealandia and plans to build a new visitor center are already in the works. I personally would like to see Mulligans stay unchanged as I fear an influx of visitors and facilities will diminish or even destroy the natural feel that it currently has. Its a fine balance trying to raise the funds to facilitate such an important sanctuary without over commercializing and destroying the “wild” feel. I recommend experiencing Mulligans Flat now before it may be too late to experience the magic it currently has.
Like any great wonder of the world, the day it is discovered by the masses is the day it loses its wonder.