This vast, wondrous floodplain is alive with birds and animals, many of them fearless because they have had little contact with people in this lightly populated area. Much of the world population of little curlews stage here in migration between Australia and Siberia, among 250 species of migratory and resident waterbirds including rare, stunning Brolga cranes, along with great flocks of waterfowl. During Australian droughts it is a refuge for Australian waterfowl.
Some 60,000 introduced rusa deer graze. Equally at home are agile wallabies and two kinds of crocodiles. Cited by the Ramsar Convention as a Wetland of International Importance, Bensbach is one of several rivers (among others are the Morehead and Mai Russa) that cross this rich plain and drain over tidal mudflats into the Torres Strait. Bensbach is part of the 2,280-square-mile (5,900-km2) Tonda Wildlife Management Area in the Western Province of southwestern P.N.G. on the Indonesian border, managed by a local landowners’ committee.
During wet season Bensbach is reachable only by boat or small planes that land at outpost strips. Accommodations are available at the Bensbach Wildlife Lodge—comfortable but on the costly side—and sometimes government guesthouses. Problems include poaching, also active leases for mining and seismic exploration.