A unique property in northern Victoria that is home to 30 threatened species, including the Australasian bittern and growling grass frog, is up for sale and a not-for-profit ecological trust is hoping it can raise the funds to continue the vision of its current owners.
- The Wetland Revival Trust needs to raise funds by mid-August so it can purchase the 180-hectare conservation property at Murrabit West
- The property was once a dairy farm but now is home to 30 threatened species
- Barapa Barapa man Ricky Kirby is thrilled by the property's transformation
Ken and Jill Hooper purchased Wirra-Lo in the 1980s and the summer pastures that were grown there complemented their dairy business in nearby Cohuna.
Wetland Revival Trust senior ecologist Damien Cook has been working with the couple to repair and preserve the property since 2014 and said the Hoopers were fantastic observers of the natural world.
"Even when they were farming it, they were using the run-off irrigation water to keep the wetlands healthy," he said.
When the Hoopers retired from farming they placed a conservation covenant on Wirra-Lo to ensure its natural values would be retained.
Floods revealed a secret
Mr Cook said the 2011 floods revealed the 11 wetlands on the property and sparked the regeneration of native plants.
"Ken has been working now to deliver water to each of those wetlands and create habitat for a huge diversity of species," he said.
So far 127 native wildlife species have been recorded at Wirra-Lo as well as 130 native plants.
But the Hoopers have decided to sell the property and the Wetland Revival Trust wants to step up and buy it.
"There's a huge opportunity. We can carry forward the vision Ken and Jill had to restore the wetlands and keeping this place available for the community to use, so kids can come here and learn about Aboriginal culture, ecosystems and biodiversity," Mr Cook said.
Using water to future-proof land
Thirty of the native plant species have been reintroduced to the property and eight of those are rare and threatened.
"It's a great example of what can be done with environmental restoration and using environmental water to future-proof the landscape," Mr Cook said.
The federal government's State of the Environment report was released earlier this month and Mr Cook said some of the findings were dire.
"We're continuing to lose habitat, threatened species are becoming more threatened and climate change impacts like bushfires and droughts have wreaked a massive toll on our wildlife," he said.
The trust has until mid-August to raise $750,000 to buy the property and help continue the conservation work at Wirra-Lo.
"It's pretty ambitious. I'm always up for a challenge," Mr Cook said.
Barapa Barapa man Ricky Kirby is pleased Wirra-Lo has been transformed into a conservation property and he is hopeful an Indigenous ranger position could be created.
"When I see country coming back to its natural state it's like a healing. When the country looks healthy it makes us feel healthy too," he said.
During his most recent visit Mr Kirby spotted a swan on Brolga Swamp.
"I haven't really seen a swan on a nest since I was a kid and I'm over 50," he said.