About the Mareeba Wetlands

The Mareeba Tropical Savanna and Wetland Reserve was conceived in 1994 to use water leftover after passage through the channel system of the Mareeba Dimbulah Irrigation Area. Originally earmarked for development for sugar cane, the reserve was found to have significant environmental constraints, due to its complex soils and geological composition and the risk of downstream salination. The decision to put a halt to the agricultural development was followed by in depth environmental investigations carried out over a more than 5 year period.

At that point, the Mareeba Wetland Foundation (now known as the Wildlife Conservancy of Tropical Queensland), a not for profit organization recognised by Environment Australia, put forward an alternative development scenario based on this wealth of existing environmental data. This scenario envisaged the creation of a series of gravity-fed wetlands that would be set within the tropical savanna, thereby creating a 5000 acre Reserve of significant regional biodiversity value. This, in turn, would allow visitors and local people to experience a tropical ecosystem totally different from the reef, coastal and rainforest environments and still within one hour of Cairns International Airport.

The concept was put to the regional selection panel (consisting of all levels of government, business and peak environmental bodies) of the Regional Infrastructure Development Program and put forward to Canberra. Following approval, the State and Commonwealth government adopted the project and granted staged funding approval.


View-from-lookout-with-mist-high-res.jpgWork on the project developed in stages, each subject to critical review and culminated in the completion of earthworks in November 1998. Despite significant setback following extensive damage to the newer infrastructure by Cyclone Rona in early 1999, repair works and practical completion was achieved in May.

During the development of the project, ongoing monitoring of biodiversity and the development of tourism, recreation and educational infrastructure occurred. Reports to the Department of Transport and Regional Development revealed phenomenal increases in wetland wildlife, with the wetlands after only two years already established as one of the most important Brolga Grus rubicunda and Sarus crane Grus antigone roosts in Tropical North Queensland.

As a result of this demonstrable increase in biodiversity, the tourism sector wholeheartedly embraced the project, supporting further funding applications under the Regional Tourism Program. The resultant grant contributed towards the construction of the Clancy’s Lagoon Visitor Centre along with significant in kind contributions from the Mareeba business community. A 6 month GreenCorps program saw walking tracks, tree planting and noxious weed eradication programs implemented. The Reserve opened to the public in September 1999.

The Muluridji people were granted native title over the Reserve in December 2011 and intend to work with the Conservancy to ensure that biodiversity conservation and the visitor experience are maintained and enhanced

finches-250px.jpgCurrent Projects

The Wildlife Conservancy of Tropical Queensland runs a series of environmental intiatives including:

  •     Brolga and Sarus Crane Research
  •     Crane Week
  •     Gouldian Finch Reintroduction
  •     Fire Management
  •     Wildlife Monitoring and Mapping
  •     Buff-breasted Buttonquail Monitoring

For more information, please visit our Programmes section.

Contribution to Tourism

In creating the Reserve, the Conservancy has made a unique contribution to Tropical North Queensland tourism, especially in the Mareeba region, completing a trio of regional natural attractions the ‘hat-trick’ of Australian nature – the Reef, the Rainforest and…the Outback.

Volunteer Staff

Dirk-cleaning-aviary.jpgEveryone who works at or with the Wildlife Conservancy of Tropical Queensland treats it as a vocation. From its inception, the project has been staffed largely by volunteers and Conservancy members.

Volunteers do everything on the Reserve from planting reedbeds and conducting bird surveys to dealing with the general public, and play a vital role in the upkeep and daily running of the Reserve. Find out about becoming a Reserve Volunteer.

Jabiru Safari Lodge At Mareeba Wetlands