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Research & conservation

Alice Springs Desert Park is committed to the conservation of Northern Territory biodiversity. Our conservation outcomes for many plant and animal species can be seen at a local, regional and national level. Working closely with the community to ensure threatened plant and animal species are protected.

Recovery plans are multi-disciplinary, multi-faceted and invariably aimed at recovering bio-diversity, whether by ameliorating direct threats to a species, or recovering habitat.

The Alice Springs Desert Park is represented on a number of animal recovery programs:


Mala (Lagorchestes hirsutus) a small member of the kangaroo family, are extinct in the wild within the Northern Territory and over the vast majority of their former range which covered the arid and semi arid zones of Central and Western Australia. The Alice Springs Desert Park is an active member of the Mala National Recovery Team.

Members of the park’s zoology team recently assisted with a translocation of Mala from a captive facility at Watarrka National Park to the Australian Wildlife Conservancy property Newhaven in the Northern Territory.

Mala, and several other species that are extinct in the wild within the Northern Territory, can be viewed on the park’s Nocturnal Tour and in our Nocturnal House.


In late 2017, Alice Springs Desert Park welcomed the 30th Greater Bilby (Macrotis lagotis)  born at the park since its establishment. Desert Park participates in Zoo and Aquarium Association Australasian Species Management Programs including the bilby program, overseen by the Bilby National Recovery Team.

Bilby joeys bred at Desert Park in 2017 were released into a predator-proof area at the Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s Mt Gibson property in Western Australia. Bilbies bred in 2018 are destined for release in Central Australia within predator proof enclosures at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary managed by Australian Wildlife Conservancy.

Bilbies can be viewed at the Desert Park on our Nocturnal Tour and in our Nocturnal House.

Slater skink

Slater’s skink (floodplains skink, Liopholis slateri): the range of this species has reduced over the last 50 years.  At one stage it was thought to be critically endangered, near extinction. In the early 2000’s the Desert Park assisted in searches and in finding a new population of Slater skink.

The Desert Park was given three specimens to begin a breeding program in 2011. The Park now holds a population in excess of 30 animals. A number of students have undertaken post graduate projects exploring the natural history of this species and the Desert Park is developing trial release protocols for the species in-line with the recovery plan.

A community forum looking at the efforts of different groups, Aboriginal rangers; government and private scientists; the Central Land Council; and the Desert Park was held at the Desert Park in 2017.

Slater skink can be seen on display at the entrance of the Woodland walk-through aviary.

Rufous-crowned emu-wren

Rufous-crowned emu-wren (Stipiturus ruficeps) is Australia’s lightest bird. It is found in spinifex grassland in arid Australia. It is closely related to the endangered mallee emu-wren of the Mallee country around the Victorian and South Australian border.

The recovery team for the mallee emu-wren has recognised that the rufous-crowned emu-wren is a good species for people to gain experience with before attempting recovery plan actions with the mallee emu-wren.

In 2017, the Desert Park hosted and assisted staff from the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources; Birds Australia; and Zoos South Australia in an exercise that assisted in developing techniques for the capture, transport and acclimatisation to captivity for this species.

A number of birds were collected and some were sent to Monarto Zoo in South Australia and some retained at the Desert Park. The skills gained in this exercise will be invaluable in ongoing attempts to develop a captive population for this species, and also in the translocation and release of mallee emu-wrens from one site to another.

The Alice Springs Desert Park’s programs include assisting with research, genetic management, field work, quarantine, holding and breeding components as well as providing other animal management expertise and advice on capture and handling techniques.

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