Perth-based Australian Wildlife Conservancy has won an environmental award with its Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary, a privately protected area in the Kimberley, being rated as Australia's top non-government organisation reserve of the decade.The World Wildlife Fund-Australia presented the Top 10 award today to the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, established by expatriate insurance magnate Martin Copley, for the outstanding contribution of its privately-owned Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary to the National Reserve System.Australia Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, says Mornington is one of Australia's conservation jewels."I am delighted that the Australian Wildlife Conservancy is being recognised for its major contribution to Australia's world class system of protected areas."Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary is Australia's largest privately owned protected area, established with the help of $300,000 from the Australian Government's National Reserve System Programme."The sanctuary's spectacular gorges and tropical savannah are dominated by the Fitzroy River and King Leopold Ranges. With more than 200 birds, nearly 100 reptiles and amphibians and an estimated 40 mammal species, Mornington is a hotspot for the threatened wildlife of northern Australia."This reserve is an environment lifebelt for our flora and fauna as they adapt to some inevitable impacts of climate change."Under the conservation management of AWC and its many supporters, Mornington will provide a resilient environment, and a potential refuge and wildlife corridor. It is also a centre of exciting scientific research, which will pay dividends in the future as we manage the impact of our changing climate on our threatened species."Mornington is a naturalist's paradise and its visitor programs are making a vital contribution to public awareness of the nation's biodiversity threats. "Conservation NGOs such as the Australian Wildlife Conservancy are now playing a major role in building Australia's nation-wide network of protected areas. Senator Campbell said."Over the past decade, partnerships between the Australian Government and leading conservation NGOs have added 1.75 million hectares of protected areas to the National Reserve System," Senator Campbell said."The Government's strategic investment of $12 million from the of Natural Heritage Trust has leveraged an addition $20 million of NGO funds to protect important habitats forever."Whether harnessing funds from private philanthropists to buy land, tirelessly working with communities to raise funds, or managing the reserves themselves, NGO partners such as the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, are delivering invaluable conservation results for the nation."Since 1997, the Australian Government has invested more than $87 million to build and grow the National Reserve System, adding 21 million hectares to the nation's protected land areas.and improving biodiversity conservation in more than 50 of Australia's 85 bioregions."The total area of protected reserves is now almost 11 per cent of the continent," Senator Campbell said."Under the Howard Government's stewardship the area protected forever under both private and public management has grown by 25 per cent."
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