Image Courtesy of Donal Sullivan

Warddeken Mayh Project

A Species Recovery Project

  • YEAR: 2020
  • STATE: Northern Territory
  • FOCUS AREAS: Saving Species/SDG 15: Life on Land

In the face of catastrophic and ongoing mammal declines in northern Australia, the Warddeken Mayh Recovery Project seeks to improve the status of key mammal species in the Warddeken IPA through informed adaptive management of key threatening processes. Of the mammal species that are targeted by the monitoring activities of the Mayh Recovery Project, 30% are listed as threatened in the NT and nationally (see list below).

FNPW support

This project was funded through generous donations from FNPW supporters across Australia and beyond.

Project overview

At the centre of this project is the Mayh Monitoring Network, a long term ecological monitoring program, established in 2017. The Network consists of 120 monitoring sites strategically located across the IPA, which are sampled using remote sensing cameras. In this project timeframe, Warddeken rangers were scheduled to complete the first resampling of the Network across the final 60 sites. Following the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, the team have been able to resample 36 monitoring sites this field season, and are currently processing the 900,000 images collected, the remaining 24 sites will be sampled in 2021.

The project contributes to regional efforts to understand and mitigate small and medium mammal declines across Northern Australia. The data from the monitoring network will form the bedrock for innovative recovery and conservation projects for mammals in the IPA.

Over 50% of the distribution of the Nationally Endangered ecological community Arnhem Plateau Sandstone Shrubland Complex occurs in the IPA and is habitat for many of these species. The causes of decline are landscape scale, often insidious and involve the interplay of the multiple threats including inappropriate fire regimes, feral herbivores, feral cats and Cane Toads, weeds and potentially disease.

Managing 1.4 million hectares including close to 50% of the Arnhem Plateau, Warddeken Land Management Limited (WLML) is uniquely placed to make substantial recovery and conservation gains for these species and communities.

The initial priority of the project was to establish a long-term Mayh monitoring network using motion cameras to understand the effect of fire and feral management in the Warddeken IPA on key species of cultural and conservation concern, as per the Warddeken IPA Plan of Management 2016-2020. Understanding which landscape scale management regimes produce the most beneficial fine scale conditions for different species is complex, and the subject of a great body of ongoing research. By sampling with motion sensing cameras using a method deployed by other research organisations (including the Northern Territory Government), WLML is contributing to regional efforts to understand and mitigate small and medium mammal declines across Northern Australia.

The data from the monitoring network will form the bedrock for innovative interventionist recovery and conservation projects for mammals in the IPA. Baseline sampling has already revealed previously unrecorded populations of the nationally endangered Northern Quoll and Black Footed Tree Rats, which would benefit from finer scale threat management – particularly during vulnerable life stages such as mating and fledging young. Without a robust monitoring regime, WLML would not be able to evaluate the effect of management actions and therefore amplify their success.

Threatened mammal species amenable to sampling with camera traps:

Arnhem Rock-rat (Zyzomys maini) VU (NT), VU (National)

Black Wallaroo (Macropus bernardu) Data deficient

Black-footed Tree-rat (Mesembriomys gouldii) VU (NT) EN (National)

Brush-tailed Rabbit-rat (Conilurus penicillatus) EN (NT) VU (National)

Fawn Antechinus (Antechinus bellus) EN (NT) VU (National)

Golden-backed Tree-rat (Mesembriomys macrurus) CR (NT) VU (National)

Kakadu Dunnart (Sminthopsis bindi) Data deficient

Nabarlek (Petrogale concinna) VU (NT) EN (National)

Northern Brush-tailed Phascogale (Phascogale pirata) EN (NT) VU (National)

Northern Hopping-mouse (Notomys aquilo) VU (NT) VU (National)

Northern Quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus) CR (NT) EN (National)

Pale Field-rat (Rattus tunneyi) VU (NT)

Red-cheeked Dunnart (Sminthopsis virginiae) Data deficient

Yok-in-WIPA Image courtesy of Warddeken Land Management


FNPW supports projects across Australia. In the spirit of reconciliation we acknowledge the Traditional Owners of Country and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture.

yok Photo courtesy of Warddeken Land Management


The project is ongoing.

This project was funded by FNPW in 2020.

KKT-Daluk-Rangers Daluk Rangers photo courtesy of Rowand Taylor


KKT (Karrkad Kanjdji Trust) is the lead organisation for this project.

Further information about our project partner can be found on their website:

Project Update 2022

The rangers have gotten through all the photos from the grid at Barradj last year, and sadly there are no quolls captured. Cara at Warddeken said the site was hit by a very intense late dry season fire in 2020 so she wasn’t surprised and they still may be in the region since there are gorges radiating out from the area. There were some other threatened species (northern brown bandicoot, black footed tree rat, white throated grasswren) so the plan is still to do tailored fire management to bring it back to suitable quoll habitat.

Click the image above to view poster summary

Please see the above poster summary of the long term Mayh Monitoring Program results from last year. Cara’s currently prepping for this years camera deployment and is planning to get all the cameras out in one go hopefully (38 sites this year!) which opens up the schedule for other work (another threatened species grid might be on the cards if things don’t get worse with covid, possible in a woodland area this time).

Check back here for more updates and photos as this project progresses.

Project Update 2021

The support of the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife has allowed Warddeken to begin a research project investigating the extent of two populations of the Northern Quoll (djabbo), which were uncovered through the monitoring program. The project involves establishing a 70 camera station grid at each site to understand the size of the djabbo and feral cat populations. The team were able to start, but not complete the first grid on the Barradj clan estate this field season (more detail below).

In exciting developments, senior daluk (female) rangers from the Manmoyi ranger base have designed and begun to implement a second research project to investigate a suspected decline of the Orange-footed Scrub-fowl (kurrkurlanj). This project is a bininj (Indigenous) priority, as the kurrkurlanj is a culturally important species, and while the daluk team have back end support from the IPA’s Monitoring Officer, they have taken charge of all the field work for this project. The cameras from the first monitoring sites will be retrieved soon.

Project Update 2020

Mayh Species Recovery Project – KKT News December 2020

The Northern Brown Bandicoot (‘yok’) is the largest of Australia’s bandicoots – they are nocturnal, solitary and omnivorous, eating a range of small animals, roots and plant matter. As with all bandicoots, they make signature conical diggings as they fossick for resources.

Significant grass cover is a key requirement for yok. During the day they rest in long dense grass in nooks and depressions, and will form the grass into cylindrical nests or take shelter in hollow logs. When understory is severely burnt by large and hot late-season fires, or denuded by buffalo and pig, yok are susceptible to predation.

However, if these threatening processes are mitigated, populations can quickly rebound, as yok can breed all year round, with females producing and weaning around four young (up to seven) within 60 days.

In the Warddeken Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) the Mayh Monitoring Project has located 20 populations of yok. A simple analysis gives weight to the habitat requirements described above; yok are commonly found in areas with gentle, patchy and early fire regime with a diverse and mostly dense grass and midstory layers.

Yok are important to Indigenous people (‘bininj’). There are many bandicoot-dreaming sites across the landscape, there are roles in ceremony, representations in rock art and yok are still prized food sources. Senior people have observed a decline in yok over the past 20 years, concurrent with western scientific findings. In the Warddeken IPA, Landowners have been heartened by seeing yok in the images coming in from the Monitoring Project.

Photo courtesy of Warddeken Land Management
Photo courtesy of Warddeken Land Management
Image courtesy of Warddeken Land Management

Related Projects

White-throated Grasswren

The White-throated Grasswren was once abundant in Kakadu National Park but declining numbers due to feral animals and habitat loss has placed them on the Vulnerable Species list.

Ngurrawaana Ranger

A conservation project in the Millstream Chichester National Park (MCNP) bringing together a team of local traditional owners with parks staff in order to help threatened species recovery .

Yarrahapinni Wetlands Restoration

Wetland restoration and health have been the primary drivers of the whole project. The project will replicate a return to a more natural water flow between the wetlands and the Macleay river.

WA's Woylie Survival

Woylies (aka Brush-tailed Bettongs) are very unique Australian native marsupials. They play an important role in the environment as nature’s gardeners.