The Northern Territory’s Fogg Dam had the highest concentration of wildlife on the planet until one night of extreme rain in 2007.

Story By David Hancock

When Thomas Madsen went to Fogg Dam in the Northern Territory last year he was in for a shock. The place known for having the world’s largest concentration of wildlife was, quite literally, deserted. Initially, he was quite puzzled. Was this an ecological disaster in the making or an entirely natural occurrence? As it turned out, it was both. The paperbark swamps, billabongs and floodplains of the Top End often contain enormous concentrations of wildlife after wet-season rains and Fogg Dam, 30 kilometres south-east of Darwin, is usually such an area. Now protected, it is a failed rice farm carved from the Adelaide River floodplains in the 1960s, with the highest density of wildlife recorded anywhere in the world – 50 hectares of wetlands burst with life during the early dry season as seeding sedge grass and wild rice attracts native dusky rats that in turn attract huge numbers of water pythons that feed on them. With its spectacular wetlands, colonies of waterlilies and diversity of bird life, Fogg Dam is popular with locals and tourists alike. There are scenic picnic areas and elevated walks through paperbark and monsoonal forests complete with hides to view some of the 230 species of birds recorded in the area. But Fogg Dam also has an underbelly – few visitors realise that hidden beneath the thick floodplain grasses lurks the highest known biomass of predators and prey of any habitat on the planet.

This story excerpt is from Issue #63

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2009