with the Rangers
Rock Wallaby Survey
During my time exploring the beautiful Whitsundays, I meet the rangers based in Airlie Beach and I join in for an important survey. Two days to evaluate the population of this endangered species. Before telling you what we do and how, I’d better introducing you to these little guys first.
Who are they?
The Proserpine rock wallaby (PRW) is only found in the Whitsunday area. Unfortunately they are on the red list of the IUCN, classified as endangered species: more details here.
They are about 60 cm tall and up to 10 kg. They have black paws and a dark grey-mauve tinged body. The tail is very long in comparison to the body.
Why are they endangered?
The PRW can live only where there are rocks, this is their biggest weakness… Destruction, modification and fragmentation of habitat result in restriction of species and the habitat area they can actually use.
- Road mortality from vehicles
- Predation by feral and domestic dogs: Wallabies
can die through stress simply by being chased by dogs
- Transmission of the toxoplasmosis spread by cats
- Consumption of introduced toxic plants
What is the rangers’ survey about?
This whole survey is to estimate the population density and composition (males-females-ages). The rangers collect morphometric data.
I join the rangers today on the late afternoon and we head to Mt Lucas, where the PRW live. In the hut, there are traps, lucerne, hessian bags, cable ties, masking tape, scales, ruler and data sheets. A lot of equipment for this special monitoring.
First of all, we set the traps to catch the wallabies during the night. Barry the ranger shows me how to proceed. We ensure the traps are stable and place the fresh Lucerne as far back in the trap as possible. Now we just have to wait for the wallabies to come and feed in the cage…
The day after, on an early morning, we come back to clear the traps…I am totally excited as this was a good catch, 10 traps on 11 are closed, which means 10 cute wallabies are waiting for us to collect them.
I watch quietly and carefully the rangers doing this as some experience is required. Barry and his colleagues approach the trap, one turns it on its end and open the door cautiously and grab the base of the tail before lifting the wallaby and insert it in a bag. This is not that easy as these animals are powerful jumpers! They tie off the bag to a tree. This allows the wallaby to calm down after capture. Meanwhile we go to the other traps and so on.
Each one is weight, measured (head, foot, tail), checked if in good health condition (big enough, muscles, no parasite etc) and last but not least, we insert a tag in new animal (the ones who wasn’t catch last year). This tag allows the rangers to identify them. This whole process is done with cautious and quietly as they are subject to high stress.
In one of the traps, we realize that a joey was left behind..! This happens occasionally when the female is stressed out, she ejects her young during the capture…Fortunately we see him and put it back with his mum.
Once we’ve proceeded all the traps, we collect all the bags and start to check the animals.
More Info About this endangered species
After all, I assist to the best moment, the release of these cute fellows. With the animal encapsulated in the holding bag, I place the wallaby on the ground pointing it toward its escape path (the field must be clear around). I slowly remove the bag from over animal’s head and before I could realize, the wallaby was gone! They are really fast and jump very quickly.
What a great experience! Such a lucky girl to have got up close with them.