Near-ex­tinct wal­laby makes a come­back

The Australian - - THE NATION - VIC­TO­RIA LAU­RIE

One of Aus­tralia’s most en­dan­gered kan­ga­roo species, the banded hare-wal­laby, has made a his­toric re­turn to main­land Aus­tralia, more than 100 years after the last wild colony dis­ap­peared as a re­sult of foxes and cats.

The last wild animal on the main­land was recorded in 1906, leav­ing only two wild pop­u­la­tions on West Aus­tralian is­lands. But in a his­toric re­ver­sal of its for­tunes, 60 banded hare-wal­la­bies — 27 males and 33 fe­males — have been suc­cess­fully moved by the Aus­tralian Wildlife Con­ser­vancy to its Mount Gib­son Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary, where they have been re­leased into a 7800ha en­clo­sure free of feral preda­tors.

The an­i­mals were flown to the main­land from Bernier and Dorre is­lands in Shark Bay, as part of a joint op­er­a­tion be­tween AWC and the WA Depart­ment of Bio­di­ver­sity, Con­ser­va­tion and At­trac­tions.

In an op­er­a­tion aimed at re­duc­ing stress to the cap­tured an­i­mals, they were trans­ported at first light by he­li­copter to the main­land, be­fore be­ing flown in a fixed wing plane to Mount Gib­son and re­leased after dark into their new, cat-free home.

Daily mon­i­tor­ing has re­vealed an ex­cep­tion­ally high sur­vival rate of 98 per cent so far. The Mount Gib­son pop­u­la­tion of the hare-wal­laby is ex­pected to grow to about 3000 an­i­mals over the next decade, which AWC says will re­sult in the first self­sus­tain­ing wild pop­u­la­tion on main­land Aus­tralia for more than a cen­tury.

If free of feral preda­tors, the small wal­laby can grow to rel­a­tively large colonies — on Bernier and Dorre, there are be­lieved to be about 5500 an­i­mals.

The banded hare-wal­laby is the sole sur­vivor of a now ex­tinct group of mostly megafauna kan­ga­roos, and is ge­net­i­cally dis­tinct from all liv­ing kan­ga­roo species.

Once found across large parts of south­ern Aus­tralia, the species is so vul­ner­a­ble to cats and foxes that it can now sur­vive only on is­lands or in feral preda­tor-free ar­eas such as Mount Gib­son, which is the largest cat-free area on main­land West­ern Aus­tralia.


A banded hare-wal­laby re­leased in West­ern Aus­tralia

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