Near-extinct wallaby makes a comeback
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