The Southern Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby population in the Snowy River National Park has more than tripled in the last 20 years due to persistent and continuous work in protection, monitoring and captive breeding.
Senior Biodiversity Officer with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) Marc Perri said: “This is a fantastic result for the recovery of this threatened species, starting from an extremely precarious population of fewer than 10 animals in 1996 to at least 40 in 2017.”
“The cliffs and rocky habitat of the Little River Gorge near Gelantipy are host to this remnant population of the most endangered marsupial in the state and the only site in Victoria with a natural population of these wallabies.”
“It’s a harsh environment that offers these agile animals some chance of survival against their most significant threat: predators like foxes, cats and wild dogs,” Mr Perri said.
“Rock wallabies were once common in the upper Snowy River area but they were almost wiped out in the early 20th century by hunting, foxes and perhaps a disease.”
“The key to their slow recovery has been predator control, but we also know a lot more now about the ecology of the wallabies at this site.”
“The Southern Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby Recovery Program was established in 1996 to address the decline of this iconic species. The program is led by DELWP, with involvement from Parks Victoria, ACT Parks and Conservation, Melbourne University, Adelaide University, Zoos Victoria, Mt Rothwell Conservation and Research Centre and private contractors – it’s a great cooperative program.”
“Locally, DELWP and Parks Victoria make up the East Gippsland Field Management Team, which conducts control of introduced predators throughout the year and regular remote camera monitoring to check the number of wallabies.”
“In autumn this year, cameras were set up at our 24 existing sites and an additional 17 cameras were put in previously unsurveyed areas. The results are exciting, with the population at known sites increasing from 23 to 29 and an additional 11 of these special animals filmed in the new survey areas.”
“The team also does cage trapping to collect genetic samples, check animal health and to learn about the breeding status of the animals. A key trapping task is to place coloured ear tags on the wallabies so individuals can be identified from colour photos during camera monitoring surveys.”
“We also cage-trap periodically to remove selected animals to the captive breeding program for this species, which is going well. Young male wallabies were removed in 2014 and 2016 and there are plans to remove another young male in 2017. We’re looking to be able to release animals back into the wild in a few years.”
“This new total of 40 known animals in Little River Gorge is really encouraging, especially with the animals seen at new sites. The goal is to have 200 animals in captive populations by 2025 and to build the population in the Little River Gorge to 50 by 2020. With the recent results these targets are looking achievable.”
The East Gippsland Recovery Program is supported by the Victorian State Government and funding from the Federal Government's National Landcare Program.
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