Rangers and researchers are excited by a boom in bridled nailtail (BNT) wallaby numbers at Taunton National Park (Scientific) where funds raised by Wildlife Queensland have clearly been making a difference for this endangered species.
At the central Queensland site 135km west of Rockhampton, the population of this small wallaby rediscovered in the 1970s has doubled in just the past year, and it is the fifth consecutive year of sustained population growth.
The annual survey in October 2017 trapped 351 individual BNTs, and estimates suggest the core Taunton population could be as high as 423 animals.
This increase is the result of several initiatives, funded in part by Wildlife Queensland’s 2014 Christmas appeal, including predator control – in particular feral cat control – and supplementary feeding during the drought in 2015-16. Reduction of buffel grass by cattle and good seasonal conditions since the last drought have also contributed to the increase.
BNTs are captured in cage traps lined with carpet, microchipped, released and re-captured in order to determine a population estimate. This year nearly all the adult female wallabies had young in their pouches. We also found the animals were healthy and had few ticks.
The number of animals weighing less than 4kg has continued to increase. This is the size of animals suspected to be targeted by cats and the increase suggests the focus on controlling feral cats is paying dividends.
As is often the case in conservation, the project owes it success to the efforts of a diverse and dedicated team: the staff from QPWS and the DEH who have done much of the on-ground work; the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, in particular the Upper Dawson branch and one or two especially dedicated members; Australian Animals Care and Education Inc.; project partners Fitzroy Basin Association; and numerous volunteers.
Making it all possible also was the help of more than 14 local landholders, the Central Highlands Regional Council with the baiting program, and $1.5 million in funding from the Commonwealth Biodiversity Fund.