Yourka rock-wallabies unveiled

on 22 Oct 2013 
Camera-trap set-up on Tiger Mountain.

“You little beauty” and a muted fist-pump greeted the first image of a rock-wallaby that flashed across Fauna Consultant Terry Reis’ computer screen. Terry had just downloaded the images from the six cameras he had set up on Tiger Mountain, near the southern boundary of Yourka Reserve, five days earlier. This was the first concrete evidence of rock-wallabies on Yourka, confirming once and for all their presence on the property and re-affirming that fleeting glimpses during initial property assessments were indeed rock-wallabies.

We had seen rock-wallaby scats when installing and collecting the cameras so were confident of “capturing” one on camera but until that first almost other-worldly image appeared on the screen, nothing was being taken for granted. After all, this was the culmination of a week’s worth of scrambling and climbing amongst the rocky outcrops, creeklines and rugged hilltops of Yourka looking for suitable habitat for rock-wallabies. Terry, Murray Haseler, Paul Hales and I had been searching all suitable terrain - steep, rocky country with deep crevices and over-hanging rocks, ideally near water - for scats and other signs of occupation, and where the habitat was deemed suitable, deploying camera traps.

Cameras were deployed at three locations, and to date, two of those – Tiger Mountain and “The Falls” – have captured rock-wallabies on camera. Given that these areas are ~6 km apart, we can confidently say rock-wallabies are present at two sites on Yourka. It is unlikely (but not impossible) they are present at other sites on the property, given all potentially suitable habitat has now been searched.

While DNA analysis of hair samples is required to absolutely determine which species of rock-wallaby is present on Yourka, the most likely species, based on known species distributions and distinguishing features discernible from the photos, is the Mareeba Rock-wallaby Petrogale mareeba. Mareeba Rock-wallaby is Near Threatened under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act.

The Tiger Mountain group appears secure as only extreme fire events could threatened them.  The group at The Falls, 6 km to the north-east, is surrounded by lantana that poses a threat in the event of a large bushfire but it could be thinned by some careful fire management. This is scheduled for later in the season. Further work is required to determine the size of the groups and the level of interaction between the groups but the primary aim of confirming presence has been achieved.

Camera-trap set-up on Tiger Mountain.