Coming together for Flashjacks

Published 07 Dec 2017 

Bush Heritage volunteers and staff recently had the chance to get up close and personal with Bridled Nailtail Wallabies in what turned out to be a record survey of the translocated population.

This August, Bush Heritage volunteers and staff assisted the Queensland Government’s surveying of endangered Bridled Nailtail Wallabies, also known as ‘Flashjacks’, on Avocet Nature Refuge, which adjoins Bush Heritage’s Goonderoo Reserve.

Jasmin Bourne releases a Flashjack on Avocet Nature Refuge. Photo Annette Ruzicka.
Jasmin Bourne releases a Flashjack on Avocet Nature Refuge. Photo Annette Ruzicka.
Avocet, in central Queensland, is home to one of only three remaining populations of this endangered wallaby, which was presumed extinct for 42 years. It was rediscovered in 1973 on a property near Dingo, in central Queensland. Almost 30 years later, an unfenced insurance population was established on Avocet, and today about 100 Flashjacks call the refuge home.

Bush Heritage volunteers and staff spent five nights assisting with this year’s survey of the Avocet wallabies, helping to set up traps and collect data.

Jasmin Bourne, a student from the University of Queensland, was among the Bush Heritage volunteers who took part in the survey.

“There was a really diverse group of people involved, from Bush Heritage’s Goonderoo caretakers, to students, scientists and other volunteers,” says Jasmin. “It was a really interesting cross section of people bringing together all sorts of knowledge and experience.”

Participants checked the traps for wallabies twice every night, at 8pm and 4am. In total, 39 individual wallabies were trapped over the course of the week – significantly more than have been recorded in the last three years of surveying.

A Flashjack joey in the pouch. Photo Annette Ruzicka.
A Flashjack joey in the pouch. Photo Annette Ruzicka.
Once caught, the animals were measured and assessed for health indicators such as weight, the diameter of the base of their tail (a good indicator of body muscle), spine prominence, the number of ticks present, and fur, gum, teeth and ear condition, before being released.

The gender and reproductive status of each wallaby was also determined, and many were found to have joeys.

“From my understanding, every female of breeding age that we trapped had at least one joey, which is great news – some even had one in the pouch and one at-foot,” explains Jasmin.

‘At-foot’ joeys, which have already left their mother’s pouch, are kept in a predator-proof nursery on Avocet until they weigh at least 3kg. At this point, they're generally large enough to avoid falling prey to feral cats and so can be safely released into the unfenced Avocet bushland.

The Flashjacks are yet to establish a population on Goonderoo Reserve, but Bush Heritage ecologist Dr Rebecca Diete says the management activities currently being carried out there will benefit the population if it does expand.

“We’re trying to regenerate the habitat, control feral predators and get rid of weeds – especially cactus. And we’ve just repaired a dam so there’s now a water source for the wallabies,” she says. “It’s definitely on our minds when we manage the place that we could eventually have these endangered wallabies calling Goonderoo home.”