Better future for rock wallabies
Sitting on a small ledge halfway up a 20m cliff face, a baby no more than a few weeks old pokes its head out of home to get a glimpse of its surroundings.
It is a spectacular sight — deep red gorge walls surround it and an abundance of greenery sits below the blue sky — but one fraught with danger, and not because of the precarious place its mother has decided to call home.
This joey photographed in Mandu Mandu Gorge is one of the newest additions to Cape Range National Park’s black-flanked rock wallaby population, and if it survives childhood it will be another big tick for the Department of Parks and Wildlife’s efforts to save the species from extinction.
With such a small population — it is estimated there are only between 200 to 250 in Cape Range as well as isolated populations elsewhere in WA — every new birth is an important step in the right direction.
For the rock wallaby, surviving childhood protected in their mother’s pouch is the easy part.
They are at home on the seemingly unscalable cliff walls, which double as protection from potential predators, and the high temperatures experienced in the region.
The real battle begins when they leave the pouch. Birds of prey are their natural predators and live in abundance in Cape Range.
Introduced pests are of most concern, though, as they tip the balance of nature unnaturally against the wallaby.
DPaW Exmouth conservation officer Brooke Halkyard said cats and foxes were key threats, but competition for food and shelter with feral goats was also a concern.
“At the time of European settlement, black-flanked rock wallabies were patchily distributed across the western half of Australia,” she said.
“Sadly, they are now found in only a few scattered locations and remaining populations are considered to be at risk of extinction.
“The department’s regular baiting and culling operations allow hope for an optimistic future for the Cape Range rock wallabies and other native animals.
“Rigorous monitoring is undertaken by Parks and Wildlife in collaboration with community groups, volunteers and commercial tour operators. In the years to come, it is hoped the results will reveal a species moving ever further from the brink of extinction.”
On a Sal Salis Eco Resort tour taken late last year by the Pilbara News, it was mentioned that good rains had aided recovery efforts in recent years, leading to an abundance of food for the black-flanked rock wallaby.
Indeed dozens of wallabies, some with joeys, were pointed out by the tour guide in and around Mandu Mandu Gorge, leading to many obligatory “awws” from the captivated crowd.
Outside Cape Range, two black-flanked rock wallabies were spotted in Kalbarri National Park last year, decades after it was believed they had been wiped out.
Several places, such as Barrow Island, the Calvert Ranges, Salisbury Island, and a few locations in the Wheatbelt house rock wallaby populations of varying sizes.
Populations have also been translocated to Cape Le Grande and Avon Valley National Parks, as well as the Durba Hills and Paruna Sanctuary.
It is hoped with continued vigilant protection measures against invasive species, the Cape Range population can one day thrive because the wallaby is an endearing WA local too cute to lose from this world.
The gorges of Cape Range National Park are a haven for rock wallabies.
A black-flanked rock wallaby joey sticks its head out of its mothers pouch in Mandu Mandu Gorge.
The wallaby in Mandu Mandu Gorge.
A tour group from Sal Salis on the lookout for rock wallabies in Mandu Mandu Gorge.
Feral animals but pressure on black-flanked rock wallabies.
A black-flanked rock wallaby.