30 March 2019
Wildlife Queensland Projects Manager, Matt Cecil, reports on his recent visit to the brush-tailed rock wallaby project site in the Flinders-Goolman Conservation Estate.
On 27 March, I spent an enjoyable day in the much needed cool drizzling rain, visiting the location of our brush-tailed rock wallaby project site, beneath the striking Flinders Peak within the 2200 ha Flinders Goolman Conservation Estate.
The plant life visibly glistened in the cool damp weather, appearing lush and inviting. My sense of comfort would have been much reduced had I visited the spot three weeks prior, before any rain and during the mid-30 degree temperatures the area had been exposed to for such a long time. The site would have presented a wholly different view, one of hot, sharp rocks and parched, dry vegetation, hardly painting a positive image of the rocky outcrop which provides shelter to a few individual brush-tailed rock wallabies (BTRW). Yet, these wallabies find what they need to survive, in all conditions.
The rocky outcrop runs north to south, creating a roughly 100-metre long east-facing cliff. Over millennia, the volcanic rock has eroded and fractured to provide perfect shelves and caves for BTRW to inhabit. All in all, this site is textbook habitat for the wallaby. Evidence of past use by the species was abundantly clear; visible in crevices were piles of old dried faeces and amazingly, rocky shelves worn smooth by generations of BTRW resting during the hot days. Trees growing at the foot of the cliff provide areas of shade, creating a microhabitat for epiphytic ferns and moss. The site is simply stunning!
Below the outcrop is the all-important wallaby foraging area, a gently sloping eucalypt woodland of spotted gum and ironbark that terminates in a gully and ephemeral creek line 200m below. However, this is where the picture turns less idyllic. Where the ground cover should consist of a diverse community of native grasses and forbs, I instead found a carpet of pink flowers, flowers of the category 3 invasive weed, creeping lantana (Lantana montevidensis). This is a cousin of the more widely known Lantana camara but its growth form is different; creeping lantana grows to form mats of vegetation that scrambles along, outcompeting slower growing native ground covers species.
The bad news is brush-tailed rock wallabies do not eat this plant. What would have been an abundant and productive foraging site for the population is now much reduced in size and quality, providing only a limited amount of native browse for the wallaby.
Helping the brush-tailed rock wallaby bounce back
Wildlife Queensland’s project will tackle this creeping lantana infestation. Through assistance from weed management contractors and volunteer help, our aim is to knock down this weed and facilitate the return of native grasses and ground cover species to feed the BTRW. Ipswich City Council has pledged to conduct follow up maintenance well into the future to ensure our hard work is not undone through neglect.
I have great confidence that this project will achieve our goal of seeing brush-tailed rock wallaby return in numbers to this historic den site. The timing couldn’t be better to begin this project as fresh brush-tailed rock wallaby scat was found during this visit. It is a fantastic indication that the species is just hanging on at the site, so the sooner we can tackle the creeping lantana, the sooner we will see the return of these amazing wallabies.
If you are interested in volunteering on this project, please email Matt Cecil via email@example.com