By Nathan Beerkens
Field Ecologist & Community Coordinator

Last weekend, Arid Recovery (metaphorically) opened its gates to the world for 2019 Open Day – the first time in three years! 130 people arrived, which is a great turnout from a small town like Roxby Downs.

Co-hosted with other BHP community partnerships; Time for WellbeingStrengthening our Families and Mining Minds, the event featured many activities to give people a taste of both Arid Recovery and the outback environment.

Families learning how to radio-track wildlife.

Self-guided walks gave visitors an opportunity to explore on their own, Arid Recovery staff gave workshops on tracking wildlife through footprints and radio-antennas, children got dirty in the red sand dunes, our Education Centre became an artistic hub and families learnt to set cage traps for bettongs.

Those doing the footprint tracking found a pleasant surprise – one of our reintroduced quolls had walked over the deck area the night before! (Unfortunately, it didn’t show its face on Open Night).

We also offered literal ‘tastes’ of the outback, with a range of native foods on offer for people to try, including kangaroo sausages and steaks, quandong and lemon myrtle jams, saltbush balsamic vinegar and saltbush dukkah. The native food was kindly sponsored by Roxby Engineering and Fabrication and Inspiring South Australia’s Far North Science Hub .

A visit from Macca the Bilby mascot is always exciting, but not nearly as exciting as seeing real-life Australian wildlife up-close. Under the watchful eye of Arid Recovery staff, visitors set cage traps before sunset, and returned to check them half an hour after dark. To the crowd’s delight, they returned to see a burrowing bettong hopping around the traps. For many people, this was the first time in their lives that they had seen this rare and endlessly curious animal.

The bettong investigated the traps for a while and then hopped off into the darkness, so we went and checked the traps. Two lucky families caught bettongs, which were quietly bagged up, ready to be processed.

Burrowing bettong, showing off its unique eartag. Photo: Claire Coulson

Processing bettongs means to weigh, sex and measure them. It is a critical part of Arid Recovery’s monitoring program, and gives us an indication of the animal’s health and reproductive status. Each time a new bettong is caught, it is given an ear-tag with a unique number so that we can follow it throughout its life.

To give full credit to the children present, they were very quiet and respectful around the bettongs, as they watched Arid Recovery staff do the processing. Credit to the bettongs as well, who were very obliging.

Thanks to everyone who came out, especially those who travelled from far and wide for the event. And thanks to our community partners and volunteers for all their assistance on the day. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Missed out on Open Day and want to see the Reserve? You can join us for a Sunset Tour or the Roxby Discovery Tour, April – October. Bookings can be made through the Roxby Downs Visitor Information Centre  by calling (08) 8671 5941.