Captive breeding and predator control are helping to protect the critically endangered southern brush-tailed rock wallaby in two remote corners of Victoria.

This once common marsupial was nearly wiped out by the fur trade in the 19th and 20th centuries and, by the 1990s, the southern brush-tailed rock wallaby was on the brink of extinction, having declined to a known population of around 10 animals in the Upper Snowy River Gorge.

Since then, a dedicated conservation program has focused on intensive predator control, periodic monitoring and captive breeding, to build numbers and genetic diversity.

It’s been a long and arduous journey.

Weighing just five to 10 kilograms, the pint-sized wallabies are restricted to a natural population of fewer than 50 animals in the Snowy River National Park and an introduced population of about eight in the Grampians National Park. Their diminutive size puts them at great risk from foxes.

But the wallabies’ terrain is extremely difficult to access; the land is steep, rocky and remote, and subject to extreme temperatures.

A team of fit and dedicated field workers from partner organisations such as Zoos Victoria, Parks Victoria, University of Melbourne, Adelaide Zoo, and Adelaide University must hike in and camp for weeks in the gorge, laying baits and setting camera-traps, which monitor the wallabies’ progress.

The camera traps also improve the success of the captive breeding program by enabling ecologists to identify and capture suitable animals to strengthen the genetic pool. The work is overseen by geneticists at the Mount Rothwell Biodiversity Centre in Victoria and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve in the ACT.

Efforts to save the species are being supported by a $200,000 grant through the Victorian Government’s Biodiversity On-Ground Action Icon Species Grants program, which funds targeted actions designed to protect and conserve Victoria’s threatened species.

The work has helped to bring the southern brush-tailed rock wallaby back from the brink of extinction – the natural population has not only grown in size but has significantly expanded its range of habitat.

“We're particularly excited to see stability in the population, with 13 animals less than two years old observed — this is a high percentage of young animals, balancing out the loss of older wallabies,” DELWP Natural Environment Officer, Marc Perri, said.

“There are now more breeding age females in the gorge than at any time in the past 30 years, which is really good news and bodes well for the future growth of the colony."

Planning also is underway to reintroduce brush-tailed rock wallabies to new sites in Victoria.

It’s one of the ways we are working to protect biodiversity because every species matters.

Page last updated: 27/07/20