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Midwest Times - - FRONT PAGE - Tamra Carr

Wal­laby pro­gram earns shield

Brush-tailed rock wal­la­bies are now thriv­ing at Kal­barri Na­tional Park, thanks to the ef­forts of West­ern Shield award re­cip­i­ent Mike Pax­ton and his team of rangers and re­search staff.

Af­ter about 20 years with­out a sin­gle sight­ing, the wal­la­bies have re­turned to the Murchi­son Gorge af­ter a translo­ca­tion pro­gram that moved wal­la­bies from two Wheat­belt na­ture re­serves to the na­tional park.

Mr Pax­ton’s com­mit­ment to the brush-tailed rock wal­laby earned him the award, which recog­nises Depart­ment of Bio­di­ver­sity, Con­ser­va­tion and At­trac­tion em­ploy­ees who have ded­i­cated them­selves to the re­cov­ery of wildlife.

Mr Pax­ton said the pro­gram had helped to en­sure the sur­vival of the brush-tailed rock wal­laby.

“We have now got three sep­a­rate wal­laby pop­u­la­tions in Murchi­son Gorge,” he said.

“It was pretty thrilling see­ing them come back — they’re a beau­ti­ful lit­tle an­i­mal.”

Mr Pax­ton said the main threats to the rock wal­la­bies were goats and foxes.

“The goats tend to oc­cupy sim­i­lar shel­ter sites in the Murchi­son Gorge and they graze heav­ily, so it’s fierce com­pe­ti­tion for rock wal­la­bies, which lose their food source,” he said.

“And the fox is ob­vi­ously a very ef­fi­cient hunter.”

Fox bait­ing and goat con­trol have so far helped im­prove wal­laby pop­u­la­tions and Mr Pax­ton said cat bait­ing was soon to be in­tro­duced.

“We have a lot of cam­eras mon­i­tor­ing the gorge sys­tem, wal­laby pop­u­la­tions and feral an­i­mal ac­tiv­ity,” he said. “We’re hop­ing with bait­ing, we’ll see a drop-off in feral an­i­mals.”

Mr Pax­ton said the award was not a com­pe­ti­tion and he wanted to ac­knowl­edge his col­leagues.

“Well, I very much ap­pre­ci­ate the recog­ni­tion, but I have a team of re­ally good rangers, sup­port staff and spe­cial­ist branches do­ing re­search,” he said. “I’m very reliant on my team.” One translo­ca­tion site is re­ported to be close enough for park vis­i­tors to see the rock wal­la­bies.

“It’s a strong pos­si­bil­ity that soon enough mum, dad and the kids will be able to have a look at them,” Mr Pax­ton said.

He said that fur­ther re­con­struc­tion of fauna will hap­pen in the not-too-dis­tant fu­ture.

West­ern Shield win­ner Mike Pax­man in Murchi­son Gorge look­ing for wal­laby drop­pings.

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