By Nathan Beerkens
Field Ecologist & Community Coordinator

This year, Arid Recovery turns 21. And, for the first time in its history, the Research Station has been fenced off.

We’ve done this for two reasons:

Reason 1: Keep the bettongs out.

Our burrowing bettongs are notoriously cheeky animals that will investigate anything. They are endlessly curious and have no issues about coming onto our deck in the hope of sniffing out dinner. Whilst this is, admittedly, very cute, it’s not what we want. We don’t want these animals to be habituated to humans. We want them to be wild and fend for themselves, which they will have to be to survive outside fenced reserves again.

Bettong investigating a camp oven. Photo: Kath Tuft

What’s the easiest way to solve this problem? Fence them out. We operate the largest fenced reserve in the country…there’s plenty of other spaces for them to explore.

(It’s also important to note that no matter how much they’ve tried, or how cute they’ve looked, we’ve never fed them!)

Emily Gregg and a curious bettong on the Research Station deck.

Reason 2: Promote the stickies.

Our stick-nest rats (lovingly referred to as stickies) are one of the rarest of our reintroduced mammals and are very shy creatures. There’s also a family of them that live under the Research Station. Sometimes they even join us for late-night showers in the outhouse.

Stickie in the outhouse shower. Photo: Melissa Jensen

They’ve been declining in the reserve recently as bettongs have become overpopulated. They also suffer from a lot of bad press, just because they are called ‘rats’ (even though they’re great!). This new fenced area gives us a great opportunity to show people first-hand how fabulous stickies are and that rats aren’t scary.

The holes in the wire mesh of the fence are too small for bettongs, but big enough for stickies to come and go as they please. We’ve also replanted a lot of native species that stickies love, to try and attract them into our new “garden”. Soon, people joining us for one of our Sunset Tours will have a better chance than ever to see stickies up close and personal and see just how cool these rats really are.

Re-planting natives in the new garden.

How did we fund this?

Thanks to you. Last year we ran a social media campaign called #StickieSeptember, introducing people to stick-nest rats and showing off all of their home-building prowess and grand designs.

This campaign was picked up by The Age and Sydney Morning Herald newspapers, and led to a huge influx of stickie adoptions and donations by the public to build this stickie haven. Until this campaign, stickies were by far our least popular animal to adopt.

So thank you again to all of the people who supported this effort, and thank you to the Roxby Downs locals who came out to build the fence last Sunday. We encourage everyone to come out and see the final product in person.

Volunteers hard at work fencing off the Research Station (the outhouse is in the background).