Australia acts to stop another extinction
IN A remote stretch of central Australia, a team of 12 wildlife rangers spent two nights this week rummaging through clumps of rough grass looking for the tell-tale bristly reddish-fur of some of the world’s last-remaining mala, a tiny wallaby.
When eight of the 1ft-high creatures had been found – four males and four females – they were carefully trapped and relocated by plane 200 miles away to the 150-hectare Newhaven sanctuary.
In this fenced enclosure, built by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, it is hoped these eight mala – among the last 420 in the country – will be able to live and breed away from the cats and foxes that have driven them close to extinction.
As the sanctuary expands over the coming years, it is hoped the number of mala, also known as a rufous harewallaby, will grow to 18,000.
“It is important to relocate the mala now before the start of summer when the fire risk is further increased and when high temperatures make capture and transport of mala more stressful,” said Simon Ward, the conservation director for the Northern Territory government.
The emergency operation to relocate the mala marks the latest effort in Australia to combat the drastic loss of native species following the arrival of British settlers, who introduced non-native animals that have wreaked havoc with wildlife.
Australia has lost about 30 native mammals – more than any other country in the world – and 108 are listed as endangered. It is believed that 28 of the extinctions involved feral cats.