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.