Wirra-Lo Wetlands | A good news story for nature

Wetland Revival Trust has been working with the former owners, Ken and Jill Hooper since 2014 to repair and preserve the precious wetlands of Wirra-Lo, home to a rich ecosystem of flora and fauna – including threatened species like the Growling Grass Frog.

In 2023, we aquired Wirra-lo for long term protection and restoration, thanks to the generous donations of our supporters

About Wirra-Lo Wetlands

The Wirra-Lo wetlands are a complex of swamps, creeks, and depressions located on a 180-hectare covenanted private property about one kilometre north-east of the junction of Barr Creek and the Loddon River in northern Victoria. There are eleven separate wetlands at Wirra-Lo and infrastructure in place to provide water to them to manage the habitat of threatened wetland species. Some of the wetlands are deep and semi-permanent to provide refuge areas for Growling Grass Frogs, while others support large shallow areas that provide feeding habitat for Australasian Bitterns. Two of the wetlands were specifically designed, constructed, and planted to provide Australasian Bittern breeding habitat and another was created as Brolga breeding habitat.

Wirra-Lo is one of the last strongholds of the nationally vulnerable Growling Grass Frog in northern Victoria and its wetlands support breeding habitat for the endangered Australasian Bittern. The woodlands at Wirra-lo are home to two large families of Grey-crowned Babblers, which are part of the healthiest population of this species in Victoria. To date 127 species of wildlife, including 100 species of birds, 12 species of reptiles and 8 species of frogs, and 126 species of indigenous plants have been observed at Wirra-Lo. Wirra-Lo is also of high cultural significant, supporting an Aboriginal oven mound.

Hear the call of the Growling Grass Frog at Wirra-Lo (Click the icon)

Wirra-lo Recent History

Ken and Jill Hooper, the current owners, used to irrigate pasture at Wirra-Lo as part of their dairy farming operations. They are keen observers of the natural world and purchased Wirra-Lo in 1992 mainly for its natural values including its wetlands and areas of River Red Gum and Black Box woodlands. When they retired the property from farming in 2004, they decided to protect the property with a perpetual Trust for Nature covenant. They also set about actively restoring areas of natural wetlands using their extensive knowledge of irrigation and earthworks to re-instate appropriate flooding regimes. Some of their main objectives were to have Brolgas breeding in their wetlands, protect their healthy population of Grey-crowned Babblers and to re-establish a population of the nationally vulnerable Growling Grass Frog, which had last been recorded at Wirra-Lo in 2003.

The nationally vulnerable Ridged Water-milfoil (Myriophyllum porcatum) is now abundant at Wirra-lo

Wirra-Lo was once regularly flooded from Barr Creek, the Loddon River and/or the Murray River.  The hydrology of this area was fundamentally altered due to construction of artificial levees in the 1900s.  Currently only extremely large flood events, such as the one that occurred in 2011, inundate the wetlands. However, the region where Wirra-Lo occurs has been declared “flood prone” and the artificial levees are no longer being repaired. The next major natural flood event is likely to destroy what remains of the artificial levees and hopefully the region’s hydrology will return to a more natural state. In the meantime, environmental water can be delivered to Wirra-Lo’s wetlands via a series of irrigation channels.

Wirra-Lo was the first private property in Victoria to receive flows of environmental water, and because of its extremely high ecological values has a secure water allocation. This enables water to be delivered to the wetlands in dry times, when they become a drought refuge, and means that a diversity of wetland habitats can be maintained to meet the habitat requirements of threatened species.

Wirra-lo in the news

Re-established aquatic vegetation at Brolga Swamp, including self-sown Swamp Lilies (Ottelia ovalifolia), January 2021.

Restoration of habitat and species diversity

Some of the inhabitants of Wirra-lo; the rare Spotted Emu-bush (left), Peron’s Tree Frog (centre) and the Grey-crowned babbler (right), which is listed as endangered in Victoria

During initial ecological surveys in November 2014 Nine Ecological Vegetation Classes (EVC’s) were mapped at Wirra-lo, all of which are listed as rare or threatened. A total of 120 species of plants were recorded; 78 (65 %) of which were indigenous and 7 were listed as rare or threatened (4 of these were wetland dependent). Permanent quadrats and photo points were established to monitor the wetlands response to environmental water and other restoration activities.

A follow up vegetation survey conducted in September 2021 revealed a total of 168 plants species, 126 of which were indigenous and 16 listed as rare or threatened (12 of these are wetland dependent). Of the 47 new species that were recorded in 2021, 30 had been re-introduced via a revegetation program since 2014, including 9 rare and threatened wetland dependant species.

The nationally vulnerable Growling Grass Frogs (Litoria raniformis) was heard calling in one of the restored wetlands in Spring 2017, only 2 years after restoration works began. Prior to this it had not been heard at Wirra-lo since 2003. Recent regular surveys of Growling Grass Frogs at Wirra-lo have shown that their numbers are steadily increasing.

Damien Cook, the director of the Wetland Revival Trust, has over 30 years’ experience in restoring and managing wetlands. The Wetland Revival Trust will carry on restoration work at Wirra-lo to further improve habitat condition to ensure that threatened species continue to thrive. The Trust will engage with the local Aboriginal community to provide training and employment through these restoration and management activities.

Brolga Swamp monitoring point
Left: Monitoring point at Brolga Swamp before the restoration of hydrology, planting and direct seeding in November 2014
Brolga Swamp Jan 2021
Right: The same area shown in January 2021, 6 years after restoration works began and the wetland has been filled with environmental water on three occasions. There has been a 400% increase in the diversity of wetland plants, the nationally vulnerable Growling Grass Frog has re-colonised the wetland and over 50 species of wetland birds have been observed.

Future Plans

Australiasian Bittern. Photo by Andrew Silcocks, Birdlife Australia

Former owners, retired dairy farmers Jill and Ken Hooper, cared for Wirra-Lo for over 30 years, including placing a Trust for Nature conservation covenant on the property.  They heavily invested in controlling pest plants and animals and restoring these wetlands. But they were no longer able to maintain Wirra-lo and needed to sell the land. 

To help ensure Wirra-Lo survives and thrives, thanks to our supporters we have raised $750,000 towards the costs of purchasing the property and the next five years of conservation management. 

But there is still a lot of work to do and we need your help to do it. If you would like to donate towards additional habitat improvement works at Wirra-Lo, or development of training and education facilities we’d love your help. Your donation will go into on ground support, including training and working with local Indigenous communities.

All donations over $2 to the Wetland Revival Trust are fully tax deductible.


Revival Trust

Protecting And Restoring High Value Wetlands, Waterways And Their Catchments