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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

National Recovery Plan for Malleefowl

Joe Benshemesh
Environment Australia, October 2000
ISBN 0759010072

Note: This publication has been superseded by the National recovery plan for Malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata) - 2007



When most people think about that vegetation type, or habitat type, called 'mallee' one of the first things which comes to mind is that species, which by its very name evokes and defines the habitat. I refer of course to the malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata). However, increasingly this species is being pushed towards oblivion, or extinction as it is more correctly called in conservation circles. Joe Benshemesh has identified a large number of the factors which are causing this decline. They include habitat destruction, predation by cats and foxes and increasing fire frequency. All of these factors have one common denominator - MAN.

When people think about zoos they automatically think of captive animals and more usually exotic animals such as lions, tigers, elephants and monkeys. Every child's zoo book features the same animals and little space, if any, is given to native Australian animals. This is despite an increasing emphasis by all major Australian zoos upon research, conservation and education programs about Australian species. As more of our native animal heritage becomes threatened there has been an increasing recognition, by zoos, of the need to become involved in in-situ conservation programs and the need to participate in recovery programs. Many recovery programs now contain a captive breeding component and that for the malleefowl is no different, with a number of zoos breeding this fascinating species.

It seems fitting that this publication, the National Recovery Plan for Malleefowl, by Joe Benshemesh should be supported by four zoological organizations, each with a long history of involvement in native species and each with 'runs on the board'.

I congratulate Joe Benshemesh on an extremely thorough publication, the result of many, many hours of dedicated field work and laboratory work. I congratulate the Royal Zoological Society of South Australia, the New South Wales Zoological Parks Board, the Zoological Parks and Gardens Board of Victoria and the Perth Zoo for their generosity and commitment which made this publication possible and I commend this excellent recovery program to the conservation community as a whole.

Ed McAlister




This recovery plan has had a long gestation. It's foundations lie largely with the systematic research work of Frith (from the 1950s), Brickhill and Booth (from the early to mid-1980s), and Priddel & Wheeler and Benshemesh (in the late 1980s and through the 1990s). However, the origins of a national recovery focus for the species go back to the latter part of the 1980s when the CONCOM* (Council of Nature Conservation Ministers) Mallee Working Group convened a series of annual workshops to address conservation issues across the Mallee Lands of southern Australia. These workshops were held at Yathong Nature Reserve (NSW; 1985), Danggali Conservation Park (SA; 1986) and the Mallee Research Station at Walpeup (Victoria; 1987). One of the early issues identified through these forums was the perceived declining status of the Malleefowl and, as a result, a National Malleefowl Recovery Team was established with Ian Sluiter as its convenor, based in Mildura, Victoria.

The Mallee Working Group's activities culminated in a National Mallee Conference in Adelaide in April 1989. At that conference a public meeting was organised by the Malleefowl recovery team to discuss priority actions needed to ensure the species' long term conservation. An outcome of that meeting was that Dr Joe Benshemesh was contracted to write a research phase recovery plan for the recovery team. That plan was printed in 1992 and formed the basis for a considerable escalation of activities focused on Malleefowl research and monitoring.

Public interest in Malleefowl conservation was on the increase and, in response to that interest, the recovery team convened a national Malleefowl forum in Adelaide in September of 1995, with support from The Chicago Board of Trade through the Chicago Zoological Society and the Commonwealth's Endangered Species Program. This forum highlighted many existing and potential community activities to increase understanding about Malleefowl across their range and to help identify priority sites and actions necessary to achieve best outcomes for the species. It also re-iterated several basic research questions still needing attention.

Since that time, community and government activities associated with Malleefowl conservation have continued to expand. With this expansion came the need for these activities and their outputs and outcomes to be assessed, and for their future significance to be summarised within a national framework. The recovery team therefore sought sponsorship to prepare an updated national recovery plan for the Malleefowl and was successful in securing generous support from Perth Zoo, the Royal Zoological Society of South Australia, the Zoological Parks and Gardens Board of Victoria and the Zoological Parks Board of New South Wales. Without this assistance it is unlikely that this plan would have been prepared. Joe Benshemesh was then contracted to assess recovery actions, gaps and needs and to prepare the plan. As a first step, Joe contacted and visited many of the main departmental and community people involved with Malleefowl research, monitoring and management activities across southern Australia. He then presented an overview of the main issues he considered needed addressing in a national recovery plan at a small public forum held at the International Megapode Symposium at Little Desert Lodge near Nhill in Victoria in December 1997.

The recovery plan was then drafted and, after considerable further consultation with government department's and community groups, and assessment by an external referee, this final version of the plan has been produced. While the gestation of the final product may have been long, the various draft versions circulated for comment have provided guidance for many ongoing and new projects implemented across all 'Malleefowl States' in the past two years. For example, the Commonwealth Government's Green Corps youth training program has had teams of trainees working on Malleefowl projects in Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria. In addition, the Malleefowl Preservation Group, based in Ongerup in the eastern wheat-belt of Western Australia, has secured sponsorship from Western Mining Corporation to undertake an arid lands Malleefowl research project in the northern goldfields region of that State.

This recovery plan is thorough in its coverage of issues and actions. However, because it deals with a species with a wide, scattered and highly fragmented distribution across at least four states, each with different land use, legislative and administrative histories, it has not been possible to accommodate all views of where the main priorities for recovery action should lie. Nor is it expected that all actions can, or will, be implemented across all states. This is a matter to be determined in line with state priorities and available resources. Some sections of the plan are relatively general in their direction and are intended to provide guidance only. Others are more detailed and prescriptive. Some sections (e.g. on predation) may also be considered slightly controversial by virtue of their disagreement with some of the published literature and some relatively widely held views. The reader is therefore reminded that, while the views expressed in this plan generally reflect those held by all consulted, at least some slight differences of opinion will undoubtedly arise. The views expressed in this final version of the plan are therefore those of the author, Dr Joe Benshemesh, and do not necessarily reflect the views of other Malleefowl researchers, or of State or Commonwealth agencies or of other interested parties.

This plan contains a wealth of information and ideas and should challenge people to adopt a new focus on Malleefowl conservation.

Peter Copley


National Malleefowl Recovery Team

October 2000

(* CONCOM now ANZECC, Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council)

Footnote :

Cost estimates in this report do not include GST and should generally be increased by 10% to compensate.


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