The Shark Bay region is an area of outstanding zoological importance. Isolation of a variety of habitats on and around islands and peninsulas, has produced fascinating marine and terrestrial ecosystems.
Shark Bay is renowned for its marine fauna. The region has one of the largest population of dugong in the world, at approximately 16,000. This is approx 12.5% of the worlds dugong populations.
The bay was originally named 'Sharks Bay' by the English buccaneer William Dampier in the late 17th century. The name was given due to the large number of sharks caught by Dampiers fleet whilst fishing. Tiger sharks (pictured above right) and other smaller shark species are still abundant, especially during the warmer summer months.
Dolphins are abundant, humpback whales use the Bay as a staging post in their migration along the coast. Killer whales and southern right whales have also been sighted.
Green and loggerhead turtles are found in Shark Bay near their southern limits. The turtles come to nest on the beaches of Dirk Hartog Island and Peron Peninsula. Dirk Hartog is the most important nesting site for loggerheads in Western Australia. Six species of sea snake have also been recorded.
Terrestrial fauna is also of great importance in Shark Bay. The area has 5 of the 26 threatened Australian mammal species. They include the Burrowing bettong, Rufous hare-wallaby, Banded hare-wallaby, Shark Bay mouse and Western barred bandicoot.
Over 230 bird species have been recorded in the area. The region supports over a 100 recorded species of Amphibians and reptiles (supporting 9 endemic species). Many species of both bird and herpetofauna are at the northern or southern limit of their range.
The Mallee Fowl is a large bird, approximately double the size of a domestic chicken. The male builds a nest or 'mound' to incubate eggs. The mounds are large, using up to 3-5 metres of soil and vegetation. The male guards the nest and protects the eggs, females play no role in caring for eggs.
Mallee fowls were once widespread through out the Shark Bay area. Feral foxes, cats and clearing of native vegetation caused populations to decline.
In 1997 and 1998 mallee fowl hatchlings were released into the park with the hope of re-establishing a long term viable population. Three mounds have recently been sighted in the park, which confirms that mallee fowl are breeding and new mallee fowl are being produced.
Mallee fowl are part of the successful conservation program known as, developed by the Dept. of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW). Faure Island (located in Shark Bay) is a wildlife sanctuary that is run by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy.