Australia’s second smallest rock-wallaby rediscovered in WA

By AG Staff 12 January 2018
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While the nabarlek is yet to be sighted, the tiny animal was identified through DNA analysis of its scat.

TRADITIONAL OWNERS from the Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation, who had been surveying areas of far north Kimberley, have discovered evidence of a nabarlek – Australia’s second smallest rock-wallaby.

There have been no records of the tiny, brush-tip tailed macropod existing on mainland WA since the 1970s. However small populations have thrived offshore and in isolated areas of the Northern Territory where the animal is protected from the threats of fire, feral animal and grazing.

The Uunguu Rangers, as they are known, have been working with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to collect rock-wallaby scat across the Vansittart Bay area near Mungalalu Truscott Airbase.


Uunguu rangers Sonny French and Desmond Williams. (Image Credit: Kim Doohan)

Experts from the Australian Museum were able to confirm the rediscovery by comparing the samples of scat from WA to the scat of nabarleks living offshore.

“In recent years, we have seen a dramatic reduction in damaging wildfires from our “right-way” burning project across Wunambal Gaambera Country, particularly in the Vansittart Bay area,” said Head Uunguu Ranger Neil Waina.

“To finally discover nabarlek still living on the Kimberley mainland after so many years of thinking they may have gone is a great boost for us and the work we are doing to keep our country healthy and intact.”

WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said that Indigenous ecological insight was vital to the rediscovery of the nabarlek.

“The knowledge, skill and efforts of Traditional Owners are key to saving the unique animals of the Kimberley. Indigenous rangers are totally committed to managing their country and conserving its wildlife.”

In the coming months the Uunguu Rangers hope to capture images of the nabarlek using camera traps.