Banded-hare wallaby returns to Australian mainland for first time in a century

By AG Staff 13 October 2017
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The banded-hare wallaby is making a historic return to the Australian mainland after completely disappearing more than century ago due to predation by foxes and feral cats.

THE BANDED-hare wallaby (Lagostrophus fasciatus), a descendent of Australia’s long lost megafauna, has been returned to the Australian mainland after disappearing from the wild a century ago due to predation by foxes and feral cats.

A group of 60 wallabies —27 males and 33 females — were transported from their Shark Bay reserves and onto the Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s (AWC) Mt Gibson reserve, a predator-free zone, over a fortnight, which officials said was a gruelling process.

“You’re dealing with a very rare animal, so you need to make sure you’re getting everything right at every stage of the translocation,” Atticus Fleming, the chief executive of the AWC, told ABC News.

“In this instance, you’ve got islands that are remote, and you need to move animals in a short time frame a large distance to another remote location,” Atticus said.

He added that the only way for the wallaby to thrive in the wild was if it was released into a protected area as its size made it particularly vulnerable to predation.

“It’s in that really critical weight range which makes it especially vulnerable to these feral predators,” he told ABC News. “It’s only 1.5 to 2kg fully grown. It’s just the right size for a cat or a fox to kill and eat.”

Previous attempts to re-introduce the banded-hare wallaby to the Australian mainland including Dirk Hartog Island and Peron Peninsula in Western Australia were unsuccessful, which according to the AWC was due to predation by feral cats, combined with drought.

However this new attempt at reintroduction brings new hope. The AWC are optimistic that the translocation will result in population growth of up to 3,000 over a five to ten year period.

“We’re looking at a 50 per cent increase in the current wild population of this very threatened animal as a result of this translocation,” Atticus said.

He added that the results from this most recent translocation will strengthen future plans to conserve the species.

“The animals have got radio collars which allow us to not only check that they’re surviving and that they’re healthy, but also to get a good idea of what habitat in this new home they’re selecting and preferring.”