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Bouncing bundle of joy at Boolcoomatta

Graeme Finlayson (Ecologist)
Published 10 May 2019 by Graeme Finlayson (Ecologist)

The Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby (Petrogale xanthopus) is Australia’s largest rock wallaby species.

It was once widespread and found across semi-arid and rocky landscapes in South Australia, western New South Wales and central and south-western Queensland.

Currently it's ‘Near Threatened’ under IUCN guidelines and ‘Vulnerable’ in South Australia.

Declines in the species are attributed to historic over-hunting for their pelts following European settlement, predation by introduced feral pests, particularly the Red Fox and also competition from other herbivores, particularly goats.

The implementation of a successful fox and goat control program known as ‘Bounceback’ in South Australia that encompasses the Flinders and Olary Ranges, has led to a recovery of the Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby, with relatively stable populations now found in both areas.

This includes Bimbowrie Conservation Reserve, which neighbours Bush Heritage’s Boolcoomatta Station Reserve to the west.

We don't know how prevalent and widespread Yellow-footed Rock Wallabies originally were on Boolcoomatta, but there have been occasional records of individuals inhabiting Eagle Rock, a small rocky outcrop to the north-west of the homestead.

This area is about 15km from the nearest known colony, so it's likely that at some stage in the past decade a number of individuals dispersed from Bimbowrie and ended up finding a home on Boolcoomatta.

In recent years, macropod numbers in the region have increased dramatically, including an increase in Euros, which may impact the continued success of Yellow-footed Rock Wallabies that have established on the reserve due to direct competition for food and shelter.

On Friday 26th April, much to the delight of dedicated long-term volunteers, Tony and Meredith Geyer, a female Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby with a large joey was photographed on Eagle Rock just prior to sunset.

The finding is particularly exciting as not only was there uncertainty about the persistence of the species on the reserve, but there has also been very little evidence that any large macropods (Red Kangaroos, Euros and Western Grey Kangaroos) have been breeding in the past 12 months due to the prolonged drought conditions and associated limited availability of food resources.

Bush Heritage staff in South Australia are currently seeking funding to conduct research across the region using DNA analysis technology to identify the species in plant matter in scats (droppings). This will allow us to better understand dietary overlap between Euros, Goats and Yellow-footed Rock Wallabies.

In turn this will assist us to make improved management decisions that may increase the dispersal of Yellow-footed Rock Wallabies and improve the chances for their persistence on Boolcoomatta Station Reserve. The project will include an assessment of other areas on the reserve where there's potential habitat for the species.

A close eye will be kept on this small bundle of joy using camera traps to try and determine its persistence on Eagle Rock.

Bush Heritage are also involved with fox control and goat removal that will hopefully assist with our efforts to provide the most suitable conditions in which Yellow-footed Rock Wallabies can survive.

There’s a wallaby at Eagle Rock,
Who appears to be good breeding stock,
For despite the long drought,
A youngster's popped its head out,
And that yellow foot's forming a flock.

- Graeme Finlayson 2019

Mother and joey. Photo by Tony Geyer Mother and joey. Photo by Tony Geyer
Captured on a motion sensing camera trap in July 2018. Captured on a motion sensing camera trap in July 2018.
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