Protect and secure the future of Wirra-Lo Wetlands
Wetland Revival Trust has been working with the current 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.
Good news! We reached our goal, thank you to everyone who helped us secure long-term protection and restoration of Wirra-Lo over the next 5 years!
Wirra-Lo Wetlands – a good news story for nature
Photo by Andrew Silcocks
Current owners, retired dairy farmers Jill and Ken Hooper, have cared for Wirra-Lo for over 30 years, including placing a Trust for Nature conservation covenant on the property. They have heavily invested in controlling pest plants and animals and restoring these wetlands. But they are no longer able to maintain Wirra-lo and need to sell the land.
To help ensure Wirra-Lo survives and thrives, thanks to our supporters we have raised $750,000 to cover 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 won’t be absorbed by administration and marketing – it will go directly 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.
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.
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.
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.