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Western Brush Wallabies return

Published 20 Jun 2018 

Bush Heritage’s revegetation of 420 hectares on Monjebup North Reserve has seen the return of the poorly studied Western Brush Wallaby, known locally as the Black-gloved Wallaby or Kwoora.

When French zoologist Claude Jourdan first described the Western Brush Wallaby in 1837 he called it a slender-bodied creature “d’une élégance remarquable”.

A young Western Brush Wallaby, also known as a Black-gloved Wallaby or Kwoora. Photo Georgina Steytler.

Native to the south-west corner of Western Australia, Western Brush Wallabies were, at the time, widespread and common. But the species has since suffered from habitat loss and fragmentation, and their numbers have declined as a result – something Bush Heritage is working to reverse.

From 2012 to 2014, the organisation revegetated its Monjebup North Reserve, much of which was previously cleared for agriculture, with a wide variety of carefully selected native plants. With trees now standing up to 3m in height and shrubs up to 2m, native animals previously not seen in the cleared areas are returning.

“Monitoring the development of the vegetation, it’s looking pretty good,” Bush Heritage ecologist Angela Sanders says. “We’re getting good results with the birds, we have Honey Possums and Pygmy Possums and, of course, Western Brush Wallabies are now using the restored areas.”

The revegetation of Monjebup North is part of a Bush Heritage project to re-connect the Fitzgerald River and Stirling Range national parks, creating wildlife corridors for Western Brush Wallabies and other native animals.

Bush Heritage ecologist Angela Sanders inspects a specially-designed wallaby tunnel. Photo by Amelia Caddy.The entire region sits within the broader ‘Southwest Ecoregion’ – one of 36 internationally recognised biodiversity hotspots – and is part of the larger Gondwana Link project, which aims to reconnect 1,000km of country in the southern part of the ecoregion.

Prior to Monjebup North’s revegetation, Western Brush Wallabies, which are a priority species for conservation in Western Australia, only browsed on the edges of the cleared portion of the property. But the marsupials are now being sighted throughout the revegetation.

“They’ve been in there for about a year now,” Angela says. “There’s plenty of cover and plenty of areas to hide, which is what they like – they’re a very secretive species.”

A Western Brush Wallaby in the nearby Fitzgerald River National Park, WA. Photo by Georgina Steytler.Fauna ecologist Sandra Gilfillan has worked with Bush Heritage on its wallaby research program since its inception in 2008, and has helped devise the monitoring methods.

“All the revegetation that’s happened on Monjebup North has helped create prime Western Brush Wallaby habitat,” she explains. “And it has increased the connectivity of the region which is fantastic.”

Very little is known about Western Brush Wallabies (they're one of the least-studied macropods in Australia), but since they're herbivores, Angela says it’s likely the revegetation is providing them with a good food source.

“It’s a very positive result; it’s really good to create more habitat for them because it makes it easier for them to move between Corackerup Nature Reserve in the north and another of Bush Heritage’s reserves in the south,” she says.

As part of Bush Heritage’s wallaby research program, camera traps have been in place on a private property just north of Monjebup for the past six months.

The wallabies access the property through specially designed tunnels under fences, and motion-sensor cameras capture how and when the wallabies use the tunnels. Currently, volunteers are sifting through the camera trap images and gathering data that Sandra and Angela hope will inform a long-term research project.

As Angela explains, the ultimate goal of the research project is to use the tunnels to trap both male and female wallabies so they can be GPS-collared and tracked.

“We want to see what their home range is and how they use this landscape. They’re very poorly studied animals, so anything we can find out about them is new information, which is fantastic.”

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