BACKGROUND HISTORY.

The conditions for the birth of this organization arose from a sequence of events beginning with Sir Mark Oliphant, who, being a friend of Reg Sprigg (founder of Arkaroola Sanctuary), raised the matter of the need for feral goat control in the adjacent Gammon Ranges National Park, with the then Minister for Environment Susan Lenehan, at a dinner hosted by the State Governor Dame Roma Mitchell.

Following a visit to the Park, the Minister directed that National Parks and Wildlife Service (NP&WS) take action to control feral goats in National Parks. 

The issue became a subject of discussion on an Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) program, between the program host (Murray Nicoll), Reg Sprigg, the Director of National Parks and Wildlife Service (Bruce Lever) and the National Director of the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia (SSAA) Keith Tidswell who offered the services of SSAA member volunteers to undertake the task.

The establishment of a Hunting and Conservation Branch (H&C Branch), including all associated legal, organization, training and accreditation processes were undertaken under the leadership of Gil Hartwig OAM during 1991. 

Because the activities to be undertaken were in very remote and rugged locations, membership standards and training had to cover a wide range of specialised relevant issues. 

As a result, membership of the H&C Branch is only open to currently financial members of the SSAA – which requires an undertaking to behave responsibly and ethically; to comply with all requirements for legal and safe ownership and use of firearms.

The possession of a current Firearms Licence is a requirement, and is dependent on a police background check and satisfactory completion of a tertiary institution theory and practical course. 

H&C Branch members have to complete an additional Accreditation course and a probationary period before undertaking any field activity. 

Accreditation consists of three parts, these being: 

-          Satisfactory completion of an 8 hour theory course, covering: Hunters’ Responsibilities, Basic Safety Rules, Hunting Ethics, Hunting Laws, Responsibilities to Landowners, Responsibilities to Yourself, Field Firearm Safety, Principles of Wildlife Management, Wildlife Management Tools, Bushcraft and First Aid, Trip Planning, Communications, Map Reading and Navigation Systems and Practice.

-          The passing of a practical field shooting test (100m off-hand)

-          Satisfactory performance at a supervised and monitored field activity. 

As the objectives and conditions of many activities vary, each new or major activity is preceded by a briefing where procedures and guidelines are established. 

Each event is followed by a debriefing and completion of an Activity Report for accumulation of data and performance feedback. 

The H&C Branch does have a few fundamental policies, which include: 

-          All activities must have a conservation related outcome.

-          All landowner/client/manager instructions are complied with.

-          All culling is undertaken to legal standards and guidelines.

-          Teams are self-sufficient and cover their own costs.

THE STORY SO FAR.

The first activity was undertaken in early 1992 in the Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park under very close scrutiny of National Parks and Wildlife staff. 

The H&C Branch (now known as the SSAA Conservation & Wildlife Management Branch)  has been active since then, achieving a high level of recognition, not only as an effective wildlife management “tool”, but also as a source of specimens and empirical data for research purposes.

The success of our Accreditation process and safe operations in the field, has made it possible to have $20M Public Liability and Travel Insurance covers for our Accredited members undertaking C&WM approved activities. 

This organization has been accepted for membership of a number of conservation interest related bodies, and has representation on a number of Government and community consultative and advisory committees. 

The Conservation & Wildlife Management Branch is committed to conservation. It has established, and its members constitute the majority of the membership of the Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby Preservation Association Inc., which, with Commonwealth Government funding assistance, has purchased 140km2 of mountain range adjoining the Flinders Ranges National Park, to create the Bunkers Conservation Reserve for the protection of remnant colonies of this species. 

Major projects undertaken include substantial and continuing involvement in:

-          “Bounceback” project in the Flinders Ranges and other National Parks (Banksia Foundation National Award winner).

-          PESTCAM project in the Bookmark Biosphere,

-          Flinders Feral Predator Program,

-          Narrung Peninsula Pest Eradication project,

-          Forestry SA, NP&W, Local Government, Australian Wildlife Conservancy, Australian Landscape Trust, Birds Australia, Bush Heritage Australia, Nature Foundation SA Inc, Conservation Volunteers Australia, Friends of Parks Inc and private property and conservation reserves pest control activities.

-          University of Adelaide and University of SA undergraduate and postgraduate research projects.

-          Department of Environment and Natural Resources research and conservation projects. 

Activities have involved the removal of feral herbivores ranging from rabbits to camels, including some 35,000 goats, to reduce grazing pressures, and mainly cats and foxes to minimise feral predation of native species. 

Our success has resulted from safely and effectively achieving objectives that are shared with our clients through sound training of our members, and careful organization and monitoring of our activities in the field. 

To provide general information to members and the community, a website – http://www.conservation-wildlife.asn.au has been established.