Reintroduction of the banded hare-wallaby to our mainland
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. Their last remaining “wild” sanctuaries on Bernier and Dorre islands in Shark Bay. In fact the only extant remnant populations are on Bernier and Dorre Islands, Shark Bay, Western Australia.
It’s often not good news for conservationists, and wildlife supporters, but this is good news, for once!
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.
Banded Hare-wallabies are characterised by a series of transverse dark bars that run from the middle of their back to the base of their tail. They have long, thick fur that is predominantly grey but also grizzled with pale yellow and silver; and a rufous tinge on their flanks. Adults have a head-body length of 400 – 450 mm and weigh around 2 kg.
The banded hare-wallaby, which once had a population stretching from the Victorian and South Australian border to the West Australian coast, was last seen in the wild on the Australian mainland in 1906. The Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) has translocated 60 banded hare-wallabies to the 7,800-hectare Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary.
Mt Gibson – straddling the “mulga-eucalypt line” – is particularly important. The property supports magnificent eucalypt woodlands of Salmon, Gimlet and York gum as well as a host of other rare and declining vegetation communities and up to 50 threatened plant species. Chief executive Atticus Fleming said the wallaby could only survive in predator-free areas because its size made it particularly vulnerable. AWC has established a 7,800 hectares feral-free area – the largest cat and fox-free area on mainland WA – into which at least 10 regionally extinct mammals will be reintroduced.
It is hoped that through “translocating” the animals, the population of Mt Gibson wallabies will grow to as many as 3000 within a decade.
The plan to reintroduce native species to Dirk Hartog island has been rolled out and will progress over the next twelve years. Conservationists started with the reintroduction with the Banded-hare Wallaby and the Rufous-hare Wallaby there also. “Dirk Hartog Island is almost 63,000 hectares, which means it would be the largest island in the world to have either goats or feral cats completely eradicated, a massive feat, and one which has taken years of planning and dedication,” said West Australian Environment Minister Stephen Dawson.
The disappearance of the banded hare-wallaby on the Australian mainland is thought to be the combined result of clearing of vegetation for agriculture, competition for food with introduced sheep and rabbits, and predation by introduced predators such as cats. The usual result of post-European settlement – destruction of habitats and non-native species are sure killers!
Australia does not need more species heading for extinction!