The Little River Gorge in the Snowy River National Park in East Gippsland is the only known natural habitat for Southern Brush-tailed Rock-wallabies in Victoria.
In the 1990s it was estimated there were between six and 10 individuals left in the gorge – there are now 52, but this endangered species still needs help to survive and thrive.
Several organisations have been working together over the past 20 years to increase the genetic diversity and resilience of the population in this remote part of East Gippsland, with renewed effort after the fires.
Staff from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) are working with Parks Victoria, Zoos Victoria, Mount Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, University of Melbourne and the ACT Government on a captive breeding program to improve the genetics of Southern Brush-tailed Rock-wallabies.
DELWP Natural Environment Progams Officer, Willow Bourke said: “This year’s fires affected some of the wallabies’ key habitat, with high intensity fire reaching the top of the gorge mainly on the western side and into some of their feeding grounds.
“The rocky habitat where they live can limit the spread of fire and probably helped to protect them this year, but open burnt areas have increased accessibility to predators such as foxes which are one of the main threats to this species,” Ms Bourke said.
“The Southern Ark Program and Parks Victoria continue to carry out fox control through baiting around the colony and along the Snowy River corridor to protect the wallabies.
“Annual camera monitoring shows us which wallabies are where and how they’re faring, and results from this autumn’s monitoring are encouraging.
“Two young captive-bred males that were released into gorge last September remain in the same area. Targeted camera surveillance shows they have survived nine months in the wild. We’re hoping these males will be able to breed and introduce new genetics into the wild population.
“DELWP and Parks Victoria staff recently visited the Mount Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre to assist with trapping of Southern Brush-tailed Rock-wallabies that will have health checks and DNA samples taken.
“The best individuals will then be chosen to bolster the Little River Gorge population.
“We’re aiming to release four males and two females in late August or early September 2020 and we’ll watch their progress through remote camera monitoring over the coming months.”
Rachel Dawkins |Media and Communications Adviser| Gippsland