Welcome to Mt Rothwell, the frontline in the fight against extinction
Nicole Mills, 29 December 2019, ABC News Online
A private owner, an electrified fence and no feral foxes or cats. Mt Rothwell is proving that Australia's critically endangered animals can thrive in the wild — they just need a helping hand.
Mt Rothwell, on the northern outskirts of Geelong, is a kind of modern day Noah's Ark — an oasis for native animals facing imminent extinction.
It's based on a simple philosophy: remove the predators and the natives will thrive.
The 473 hectare site is surrounded by a tall, electrified fence, "making it look like Jurassic Park", Ms Rypalski remarks.
More than a decade ago, every fox and cat inside the perimeter was tracked and removed. Now, this privately owned reserve is having a major impact on endangered species.
Mt Rothwell is rare because it's privately owned.
The site's pioneer, John Wamsley, was renowned for turning a feral cat into a hat and wearing it to Parliament but the legacy he left at Mt Rothwell is less well-known.
"He pioneered the feral-proof fence, as it is," Ms Rypalski said.
It was an extreme action back in the day.
When Dr Wamsley's tourism-focused venture failed financially and the site was put up for sale in 2004, staff and volunteers feared the worst.
"We honestly thought it was going to be subdivided and sold off for real estate and these animals would be gone," Ms Rypalski said.
But a new private investor, Nigel Sharp, stepped in to save it.
Mt Rothwell's fence is already 10 years past its original lifespan and is constantly at risk of breaches. The sanctuary's most pressing need is to find $500,000 to replace it.