Saving the endangered Bridled Nail-Tailed Wallaby from predator threat

Landholders working collaboratively with government and non-government agencies on predator control have contributed to the successful re-population of the endangered Bridled Nail-Tailed wallaby.

A project coordinated by Queensland’s Fitzroy Basin Association (FBA) across five years at Taunton National Park brought the small marsupial back from the brink of extinction when the population sank to a low of a few hundred individuals in 2010.

Cassandra Tracey, FBA Senior Project Officer (Environment), worked collaboratively with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) and local landholders on coordinated management control of wild dogs (including dingoes) and feral cats, the wallaby’s major predators.

The Bridled Nail-Tailed Wallaby recovery grant was received under the Federal Government’s Biodiversity Fund Program for five years from 2012 to 2017.

Fast forward to January 2022 and a CSIRO Wildlife Research journal article by QPWS revealed wallaby numbers at Taunton National Park had increased by 214 per cent in the four years from 2013 to 2017 due to the extensive efforts taken by the invested stakeholders.

The revived population is even contributing genetics to establishing new populations in NSW.

Ms Tracey said FBA’s role was to coordinate all the different partners to help improve the species outcome.

She said the Biodiversity Fund Program grant enabled QPWS to undertake additional predator control and increased monitoring of predator populations.

“There was a knowledge gap at the time as we weren’t sure how effective predator control methods, including wild dog control was, so the monitoring helped QPWS to work out what the wild dogs and feral cats were doing, and how the different control measures impacted on the wallaby populations,” she said.

“FBA’s other role was to coordinate off-park landholders in the surrounding area with wild dog control and to set aside some areas of lands to be managed as corridors of wallaby habitat.”

Some of the landholders were carrying out regular wild dog control programs while others were doing it sporadically or not at all.

Ms Tracey said FBA coordinated the landholders in groups to carry out a collaborative program of ground baiting wild dogs timed to coincide with predator control by QPWS in the National Park.

“Landholders were incentivised by funding to coordinate their baiting programs. With this project having a real conservation focus, FBA was able to fund the cost of meat baits and the local council contributed their labour for bait injection.

“It was a real win for everyone involved with increased predator control and from the 20 landholder’s perspective as wild dogs can be problematic for them at certain times of the year, particularly if they have young stock around.

“Key to the success of the project was trust and keeping the communication channels open with the landholders.

“Those we worked closely with on the ground baiting and corridor work thought it was fantastic to help this threatened species and pleased to be part of the project.”

Initially landholders neighbouring the park boundary were targeted with a buffer being eventually extended out by 25km to fall within the home range area of wild dogs.

Twenty kilometres of exclusion fencing was erected on properties bordering the National Park to create six corridors and habitat refuges for the wallabies.

Ms Tracey said cattle were used to strategically graze the corridors to reduce fire risk and encourage shrub growth to shelter the wallabies.

Remote motion sensor cameras were installed in the corridors to monitor wallaby movement.

Since the project’s conclusion in 2017, QPWS has maintained the predator control work in the park and the population has continued to increase.

“There was that investment over that five year period where we were able to get the regional feral animal population down, and QPWS has continued to maintain that effort on park over that time,” Ms Tracey said.

“It’s been more successful than any of the partners expected when we first started. We are encouraging landholders to continue their core control activity of ground baiting from not only a conservation perspective but for production.

“It’s really about trying to find ways for landholders to not only increase productivity but also to find those complementary environmental wins, and wild dog baiting works quite neatly with that goal.”

Ms Tracey is a member of the Bridled Nail-Tailed Recovery team, which has recently overseen the sourcing of juveniles from Taunton National Park to form foundation populations in NSW protected reserves.

“From species recovery, it is fantastic to see now there are two more populations being established that will help to mitigate risks should there be a catastrophic event happen at Taunton,” she said.

“With the Bridled Nail-Tailed population continuing to increase despite drought conditions in recent years, the effort put in is definitely sufficient at this point to keep things going on the right trajectory.”

Read the research “Bringing back the endangered bridled nail-tailed wallaby at Taunton National Park” or the impacts of wild dogs on threatened species here.