Barossa wine products turned into wildlife shelters for Kangaroo Island

Barossa wine products turned into wildlife shelters for Kangaroo Island

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SHELTER BOXES: Marie McAvoy of Barossa Bottling and Prue Henschke of Henschke Wines, with Barossa Enterprises supported employees Rex Parmiter and Laura James. Photo supplied

SHELTER BOXES: Marie McAvoy of Barossa Bottling and Prue Henschke of Henschke Wines, with Barossa Enterprises supported employees Rex Parmiter and Laura James. Photo supplied

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Wooden shelters have been welcomed by KI Wildlife Network and the University of SA.

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NATIVE animals whose habitats were ravaged by the summer bushfires now call timber products home, including presentation boxes, which house an iconic Barossa wine valued at $900.

The special project was instigated by a division of Barossa Enterprises in Nuriootpa, which gives people with disability an opportunity to participate in woodworking activities, and to make products in a work-type environment.

According to Barossa Enterprises' Rick Mierisch, participants were "left saddened" by the inferno, which devastated Kangaroo Island.

He said their concerns soon led the group to transform specially made timber wine boxes and pallets into shelters for the displaced animals.

POUCH STAND: One of about 20 kangaroo joey pouch stands, complete with joey, already located on the Island. Photo supplied

POUCH STAND: One of about 20 kangaroo joey pouch stands, complete with joey, already located on the Island. Photo supplied

Eager to assist the recovery efforts were Barossa Bottling Services, Nuriootpa, whose donation of wooden pallets have since been converted into kangaroo joey pouch stands - with 20 already located on the Island.

Furthermore, 160 Henschke Wines' 'Hill of Grace' and 'Hill of Rose' timber boxes have been specifically altered to house pygmy possums.

Marie McAvoy from Barossa Bottling Services said it was a natural progression for the company to give support after staff had already passed the hat around for bushfire relief.

"We have also felt the effects of the fires, particularly in the regions," Ms McAvoy said.

"So we saw this project as a win-win."

Winemaker and long-time environmentalist, Prue Henscke, shared how she is "proud" to be associated with Barossa Enterprises and their endeavours.

For the past 25 years the company has provided the Keyneton based winery with specially-crafted timber boxes, which encase a number of their wine products including the world-renowned Hill of Grace.

"This opportunity enabled us to give back," Mrs Henschke said.

On Kangaroo Island, the wooden stands and shelters have been welcomed with open arms by KI Wildlife Network and the University of SA, both instrumental in the native animals' recovery.

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KI Native Network, which was established six years ago by chairperson Katie Welz and supported by dedicated volunteers, works to keep wildlife in the wild.

"Bags, which act as pouches, now hang from the stands to enable the animals to feel safe and supported and to also lean out like they would in their mother's pouch," she said.

The design enables the joeys to reach the base of the stand which is sprinkled with dirt and leaves to artificially replicate their habitat.

Equally, the timber boxes for the pygmy possums now create ideal habitats.

Each wine box features two compartments with thumb-sized holes for the tiny possums to access, and have been strapped to the trees.

The possums are monitored by Uni SA staff, which includes Sophie Petit, and volunteers.

Yet the work of the supported employees doesn't stop there.

Under the guidance of Mr Mierisch - who visited Kangaroo Island in June to forge strong links on the Island - supported staff have created a further 30 nesting boxes for native micro bats.

The work comes on top of the group's normal community woodworking creations including planter boxes, chopping boards - you name it - sold each Saturday at the Farmers Market near Angaston.

Funds achieved at the market now go towards the group's wish to visit the island to not only see their handiwork in use but also participate in regeneration activities such as planting trees.

"We don't just see this bushfire relief as a once-off project," Mr Mierisch said. "We are hoping and wanting this to be a 10-year project."

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