Our early morning departure from Mt Elizabeth was timed to make our arrival at the Mt Barnett Store coincide with its opening. We topped up the diesel tank, bought a few supplies, although sadly there was virtually no fresh fruit or vegetables. We only have few fresh things remaining from our last chance to shop in Kununurra.
It was still early when we reached the Mt House turnoff and radioed Mornington to ask if we could could come in. They have installed a radio kiosk by the road to save people the 88km trek when they are full …. a long round trip if you were turned away. We were welcomed and given instructions; we arrived safely almost two hours later … yes there were some very slow bits on the road.
Mornington belongs to Australian Wildlife Conservancy, a non-profit organisation now owning a million hectares of land in the Kimberley, as well as sanctuaries in other locations around Australia. The land was degraded by cattle when purchased ten years ago. Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary is the second-largest non-government sanctuary in Australia. Ongoing research here is improving land management by targeting fire patterns (small early season controlled burns vs late season infernos), removal of feral species and study of feral cat behaviour, and the establishment of a vibrant healthy ecology.
Already the number of species and individual small mammal counts are increasing significantly as the habitat becomes more hospitable. Everywhere else in Australia small mammals are declining severely. Bird populations are also increasing, including endangered species such as Gouldian Finch.
Our first afternoon at Mornington consisted of a trip to Cajeput Waterhole for swimming and bird watching.
This sand monitor or Goulds Goanna checked us out but was unimpressed, so left us in peace at the waterhole. In the evening we attended an information session about the whole project, it was fascinating and left us feeling inspired and hopeful. No wonder people refer to ‘marvellous’ Mornington!