Poochera is located 45 kilometres south
east of Wirrulla and 34 kilometres north west of Minnipa. Streaky
Bay is situated approximately 60 kilometres due west via a sealed
Poochera is a typical small grain
belt town situated on the obligatory railway siding. The town
itself was surveyed in 1920 and is named after a nearby hill.
For the uninitiated Poochera has a
very obscure claim to fame. Poochera is home to the prehistoric
ant named Nothomyrmecia macrops. Amongst entomologists this species
of ant is considered a living fossil, the world's most primitive
Nothomyrmecia was originally discovered
in 1931 near Balladonia in Western Australia. At the time Nothomyrmecia's
discovery caused a great deal of excitement. The species was seen
as living proof that ants had evolved from wasps. Embarrassingly
however, further specimens were unobtainable as amateur naturalists
from the 1931 expedition had failed to record collection sites
The year 1977 saw Nothomyrmecia fortuitously
rediscovered by Dr. Bob Taylor and a party of entomologists from
Canberra. The story of Nothomyrmecia's rediscovery is a remarkable
one, and it bears retelling here.
Spurred on by rumours that an American
scientist was coming to search for the lost ant, Dr. Taylor apparently
mounted one last ditch attempt to beat the Americans to the punch.
By an incredible stroke of good luck - if it could be called that
- Dr Taylor and his group were driving to Western Australia when
their vehicle struck mechanical problems at Poochera. As we all
know, even the best laid plans can go astray, and Dr. Taylor's
expedition was forced to make an unscheduled stop, and camp for
the night at Poochera.
Later that evening Dr. Taylor conducted
an impromptu insect survey in the mallee scrub adjacent to camp.
There's no doubt the last thing on Dr. Taylor's mind was Nothomyrmecia
- after all, the last and only recorded sighting was made 46 years
earlier, and even that was fully 1300 kilometres away to the west.
Poochera was definitely the last place where Dr. Taylor expected
to find Nothomyrmecia - but there it was, one solitary Nothomyrmecia
worker ant crawling on a eucalyptus tree trunk.
The sight was truly astonishing. Dr.
Taylor then rushed back to his colleagues and in true Australian
style he announced to the world, "The bloody bastard's here! I've
got the Notho-bloody- myrmecia!"
Today the Poochera Hotel is a favoured
site for ant entomologists, at least during the southern hemisphere's
winter and spring, when Nothomyrmecia is at its most active. Nothomyrmecia
is considered a very rare ant, so much so that in international
circles the International Union for The Conservation of Nature
and Natural Resources (IUCN) rates this species as critically
Since the Poochera rediscovery one
further Nothomyrmecia colony has been found at Penong, 180 kilometres
away to the west. To date however, the fate of the original Western
Australian population remains a mystery.
Poochera is a small town with relatively
limited facilities for the traveller. The town does have ample
accommodation however, and this is available at the Poochera
Hotel or Poochera Caravan Park. (Telephone 08 8626
3025). For the long distance traveller Poochera may well be provide
a suitable rest stop after a hard day's journey.
The Poochera Hotel
Situated on the main highway is the
Poochera Mobil Roadhouse. Within the Roadhouse you will find a
basic restaurant, take away food and petrol facilities. Generally
Poochera Roadhouse is open between 7AM and 9PM, Monday to Saturday.
Sunday opening hours are 8AM to 9PM. Opening hours can vary a
little depending on the time of the year. Poochera Roadhouse also
offers EFTPOS and basic postal facilities. A word of advice, Poochera
may well be a good place to top up with fuel - particularly if
your vehicle has a small petrol tank.
If South Australia's outback is to
your liking Poochera is within easy striking distance of the Gawler
Ranges. For the Nullarbor traveller heading west, a highly recommended
detour is to take the road to Streaky Bay. Streaky Bay is approximately
60 kilometres west of Poochera and is one of South Australia's
more picturesque towns. This detour will add perhaps 40 kilometres
to your Nullarbor crossing but the extra distance will be well
rewarded. If you have just crossed the Nullarbor, the detour to
Streaky Bay is best made from Ceduna.
Within Poochera itself some efforts
have been made to set up a small local history museum. Whether
this has been completed or not, I cannot say. For further advice
we recommend you speak to Kevin or Margaret Quinn at the Poochera