Animal safety has always been a top priority for Bowen Rail Company.
Efforts to reduce the risk from our operations to animals as much as possible have been built into our work, from the design of the rail corridor that prioritised the use of cleared land or non-remnant vegetation areas, to our ongoing animal monitoring.
The approximately 200 kilometre Carmichael Rail Network passes through central Queensland semi-arid to tropical areas on its path to connect to Aurizon’s Newlands line near Collinsville.
About 250 species of animals across the region
Independent environmental scientists conducted field surveys in 2013. These identified about 250 species of animals across the region, including more than 180 bird species, native and introduced mammals, snakes, lizards and frogs.
This data was used to inform the design of the Carmichael Rail Network to minimise impacts to local fauna and maintain the diverse ecosystems that the rail line passes through.
The business has put in place species management plans for a range of animals, birds and reptiles, and created animal corridors to allow animals to move safely in the vicinity of fauna crossings.
Fences have also been erected to keep native animals and cattle out of the railway corridor. Cattle yards or crossings are also in place to allow pastoralists to move cattle safely across the railway line.
We continue to responsibly manage the local environment for the benefit of native species in the Carmichael Rail Network corridor.
Fit-for-purpose protection for local wildlife
Protecting animal life was critical for the Carmichael Rail Network from its inception.
The Carmichael Rail Network was constructed by Bravus Mining and Resources as part of the Carmichael mine and rail Project and from the get-go the project team ensured that landscape permeability – how easily an animal can move around its environment – was a major focus.
For example, the rail corridor was planned in a way that minimised the clearing of native vegetation, and tunnels were built underneath the railway in habitat areas for native species so animals like koalas, greater gliders and ornamental snakes can move freely and safely.
Impacts on fauna and fauna habitat have been avoided by locating a large extent of the construction footprint, where possible in areas of non-remnant vegetation or cleared land
Species Management Plan, EcoLogical Australia
In many cases, the crossings are located at watercourses, and specific plant species were planted to attract the animals to the underpasses.
Fauna fences were added in some areas to reduce the risk of animals colliding with trains or other vehicles in the corridor. This included significant fencing during construction. At that time, the project team also undertook the necessary land clearing in a sequenced way, so that animals had the opportunity to temporarily move away from the area.
Maintaining fauna habitats
Trees and habitat features that are home to native fauna were mapped during the construction of the rail corridor. Throughout the construction period 2827 tree hollows were identified and retained. Together with expert fauna spotters and ecologists, the project team salvaged hollows and log piles and placed them nearby in habitat areas. Artificial habitats such as nesting boxes and artificial water sources were also added to the landscape.
Bowen Rail Company conducts weekly habitat monitoring along the rail corridor to check for species that are subject to a management plan. The monitoring sites care located along the rail network, including outside the immediate corridor.
The species we monitor include:
- Squatter pigeons
- Eastern curlew (Abbot Point)
- Black-throated finch
- Australian painted snipe
- Common death adder
- Saltwater crocodile
- Ornamental snake
- Native freshwater fish and crustaceans
- Greater glider
- Painted honeyeater
Monitoring is conducted by experienced professionals with qualifications in ecology, botany, ornithology or herpetology. We also operate biocondition assessment monitoring stations along the rail line.
What is a fauna crossing?
A fauna crossing is a structure that helps animals navigate around or through an area. Australian research1 conducted into the effectiveness of fauna crossings at busy highways found there were fewer animal deaths in areas where the infrastructure was in place. A separate study2 into the effect of poles and bridges for gliding mammals found the infrastructure can help them move safely.
The Carmichael Rail Network project team built different types of crossings to meet the needs of different type of animals. For example, there are crossings for koalas that include logs, rocks, ropes and plantings, while poles with launch and landing poles were installed for the greater glider. In total almost 389 fauna crossings of seven different types were built, depending on what type is best suited for the key habitat and the local animals. This included 187 dedicated reptile crossing pipes with surrounding landscaping that were built every 100 metres within the habitat of the ornamental snake. Bowen Rail Company continues to monitor the fauna crossings to determine their use.
Some parts of central Queensland are home to populations of the iconic koala
In early 2022, koalas were listed as endangered in Queensland, as numbers have fallen due to urban development in the southeast of the state.
The Carmichael Rail Network runs through some areas where koalas are likely to occur and where they may occur. Koalas were known to have lived north and south of the Carmichael project areas, at Wilandspey on the Belyando River, in Nairana National Park, on Pasha between Mount Coolon and Moranbah, at the town of Mt Coolon, at Tiverton on the upper reaches of the Bowen River, and near to the town of Collinsville.
To reduce the potential risks to koalas, the Carmichael project established a program of mitigation and management measures specific to their safety and habitat. During construction qualified spottercatchers monitored works to ensure no koalas were harmed. After construction we have rehabilitated disturbed land with locally-sourced plants including eucalyptus in riparian corridors where koalas may live.
Workers at Bravus Mining and Resources and Bowen Rail Company are trained in the identification of koala habits, so they can monitor and avoid them. Crossings have also been installed and there is a strong pest management program to reduce the population of feral dogs.
Bowen Rail Company continues to conduct a comprehensive monitoring program within the eucalypt habitats where koalas could live. In 2023, we upgraded our monitoring to use detection dogs and made additional checks for koala scratches on trees and fauna poles.
Reducing feral animals and pests
Feral pests have a significant impact on our ecosystems. Introduced species in our region of operation such as rabbits, goats, foxes and cats threaten native animals, either as predators or by outcompeting them in their habitats.
We intend to keep numbers of feral animals in control in line with the Australian Pest Strategy and the Animal Care and Protection Act.
In conjunction with neighbouring landholders, we can introduce measures to control numbers of rabbits, goats, foxes and cats if their
populations increase. We monitor for these pests, and feral pigs, in specific habitats including at water crossings and habitat edges. This involves checking for tracks and scat and photo monitoring using baited infrared cameras. We also conduct spotlighting for nocturnal animals. Any trapping or euthanasia of feral animals complies with animal welfare laws.
We also train our employees and contractors about environmental risks and feral animals.