Historic return to mainland Australia for one of our rarest kangaroo species

Historic return to mainland Australia for one of our rarest kangaroo species
Sanctuary
Mt Gibson
Field Programs
Wildlife translocations | Science: surveys and research
Wildlife
Banded Hare-wallaby

October 2017: One of our 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.

60 Banded Hare-wallabies - 27 males and 33 females - have been successfully translocated to AWC's Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary, where they have been released into a 7,800 hectare feral predator-free area. The animals were airlifted from Bernier and Dorre Islands in Shark Bay as part of joint operation involving field staff from AWC and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

The Banded Hare-wallaby has disappeared from 99% of its former range

The Banded Hare-wallaby is the sole survivor of a now extinct group of mostly megafauna kangaroos; it is genetically and morphologically distinct from all living kangaroo species. Once found from near the Victoria/SA border to southwestern Australia, the last wild animal on the mainland was recorded in 1906, highlighting the significance of its return to Mt Gibson.

 

A Banded Hare-wallaby being released at Mt Gibson

The Banded Hare-wallaby is so vulnerable to cats and foxes that it survives only in feral predator-free areas. The survival and recovery of the Hare-wallaby - and several other threatened mammals - depends entirely on the establishment of large feral cat and fox-free areas such as at Mt Gibson (which is the largest cat-free area on mainland WA).

 The feral cat-proof fence at Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary

The Mt Gibson population of the Hare-wallaby is expected to grow to ~3,000 animals over the next decade, making it the first self-sustaining wild population on mainland Australia for more than a century. The two remaining wild populations (totalling ~5,500 animals) are on Bernier and Dorre Islands. A reintroduced population has been established on AWC's Faure Island since 2004. A small number of individuals have recently been translocated to Dirk Hartog Island and a fenced sanctuary.

Staff transfer to the islands                       The Hare-wallabies arrive at Mt Gibson

The translocation was a complex logistical exercise. AWC's dedicated staff were based on a boat in Shark Bay, making nightly forays onto Bernier and Dorre islands to net Banded Hare-wallabies. Animals that were caught, and which met prerequisites in relation to age and health, were transported at first light by helicopter to the mainland, before being flown in a fixed wing plane to Mt Gibson and released after dark into their new, cat-free home.

Attaching a radio-collar prior to release | Radio-tracking Banded Hare-wallabies at Mt Gibson

Daily monitoring has revealed an exceptionally high survival rate - 98% so far. You can watch a short video of this historic translocation here:

 

Thank you to all AWC supporters for making this historic translocation possible - together, we are turning back the tide of extinctions!

I hope you will consider making a tax deductible donation to help us continue our work establishing new, secure wild populations of Australia's threatened species. Your donation could be the difference between survival and extinction for species like the Banded Hare-wallaby.

AWC acknowledges the major supporters of this project: Michael Tichbon, Perth Zoo, Lotterywest, the Northern Agricultural Catchments Council NRM and Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.