Newest (and cutest) resident moves in!

Photo: Brodie van der Schaaf

I was a volunteer possum carer for 5 years when we first moved to Margaret River, and it was always distressing to me that so many Western ringtail possums, or gnuraren, would come in to care with injuries caused by cats and dogs in people’s backyards–it was so frustratingly preventable. During this time, I would also on occasion need to provide care for another much-loved local marsupial, the Southern Brown Bandicoot, or quenda. These are a cute, chunky, Womble-like creature that become quite adapted to being around humans and like fossicking in their gardens at night for bugs. They are therefore very vulnerable to being injured by pets and cars.

We had never actually seen a quenda on the Ecovillage land in the 15 years since we purchased the first (southern) farm in 2009, and they didn’t show up in the fauna spotting and night camera surveys that we conducted as a part of our structure planning process. However, we have always assumed that they were nearby in the DBCA covenanted bush directly to the east of the Ecovillage and the reserves across the highway to the west. We hoped that if we could control the impact of domestic animals in the Ecovillage, that maybe this could become a rare human settlement where animals like quenda and possums could co-exist with us in our gardens at night.

So we were so thrilled to hear recently that one of the beautiful cottage gardens in an established stage 1 cluster has a regular quenda visitor, coming through in the early evenings and digging up mole crickets, earthworms and beetle grubs, to the absolute delight of the garden’s owners and neighbours.

This highlights one of the most important bylaws in the Ecovillage: the “Keeping of Pets” Bylaw.

We love pets at the Ecovillage and understand how good they can be for our mental and physical health. Mike and I have two senior golden retrievers ourselves, Conto and Marri, but we are also keenly aware of how much damage poorly controlled domestic animals do to local wildlife in our region (let alone the damage caused by feral animals). Many of our iconic local species are nocturnal and/or crepuscular, so, when we came to write the bylaws and create the rules that we would put in place to protect wildlife from Ecovillage pets, management of pets at night was a very important consideration.

The Ecovillage bylaws strictly do not permit cat ownership, which has surprisingly only been an issue for a handful of would-be purchasers over the years. We also require that dogs are on lead in public areas (the same as anywhere in the Shire) but also kept inside people’s houses at night – not just free ranging at night in their fenced yard. This stops them from barking at and scaring off, or worse, attacking, the beautiful night creatures and birds who grace our yards when it’s dark, and it also keeps our dogs warm and safe, and quiet for our sleeping neighbours!

If we continue to manage our pets well, drive carefully at night, and plant the right local native plants, we hope that one day this is a village where quendas can fossick at night, ringtails can make their dreys in our street trees, where we may find pygmy possums curled up in banksias and parrotbush flowers, and little mardos might sneak through the orchards at night, eating bugs and flowers and occasionally stealing an orange!