A vulnerable population of black-flanked rock wallabies have been successfully translocated to reduce risk of local extinction.
The black-flanked rock wallaby (Petrogale lateralis lateralis) population at Kaalpi (the Calvert Range) is the only confirmed viable population in the arid zone in the Little Sandy Desert region of Western Australia. This makes them vulnerable to local catastrophic events, such as drought, introduction of disease, predation or severe bushfire.
The WA Department of Parks and Wildlife Pilbara Region, Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa (KJ) and Martu rangers worked together to move wallabies from the existing Kaalpi population to Pinpi (Durba Hills), identified as a suitable site for an initial reintroduction.
Land Program Manager, Tristan Cole said since the early 1990s, Parks and Wildlife and Martu traditional owners have monitored the black-flanked rock wallaby population at Kaalpi and implemented a threat abatement program aimed at reducing predation.
“As black-flanked rock wallaby numbers increased after 2003, Parks and Wildlife Pilbara Region, KJ and Martu rangers discussed the potential for a translocation to reduce the risk of local extinction,” Mr Cole said.
With the generous support of BHP Billiton Iron Ore and The Nature Conservancy, Parks and Wildlife and KJ progressed the idea and sought the necessary regulatory approvals for a translocation.
In August 2013, over an eight day period, 90 traps were set. All trapped black-flanked rock wallabies, unless already marked, were micro-chipped in the loose skin at the nape of the neck, measured, checked for pouch young and their various health parameters recorded.
Jigalong rangers provided excellent support to Parks and Wildlife staff in the process, learning valuable hands-on skills and achieving a Certificate II in Animal Handling during the trapping sessions.
Mr Cole said the majority of black-flanked rock wallabies chosen for translocation were transported to Pinpi via helicopter to minimise travel time and stress to the animals. Animals that were of a suitable size were fitted with VHF or GPS/VHF radio collars.
The translocated animals are now the subject of rigorous monitoring, including the use of satellite and telemetry equipment. Fifteen remote sensor cameras were deployed around the Pinpi area and baited with apple and sweet potato to allow monitoring of animals, especially those without collars.
“Monitoring to date shows that the translocated animals are doing well,” Mr Cole said.
Pouch young have been observed and the animals are putting on weight quickly. This is an excellent result to date, exceeding Parks and Wildlife’s expectations.
A comprehensive population study is also being carried out at Kaalpi with one hundred and six individual animals trapped at Kaalpi, and 64 new animals micro-chipped.
This trapping effort was the largest ever undertaken at Kaalpi and will form the basis of future monitoring at this site.
For further information contact Tristan Cole at Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa.
Alison McGilvray (Parks and Wildlife) and Lindsay Crusoe bagging a trapped rock wallaby. Photo: Fiona Webb (KJ)
Black-flanked rock wallaby Photo: Fiona Webb (KJ)