Aus­tralia acts to stop an­other ex­tinc­tion

The Sunday Telegraph - - World News - By Jonathan Pearl­man in Syd­ney

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.


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