Endangered studded wallaby develops new tactic to avoid predators


When traditional predators threatened the flanged nail-tailed wallaby, it would burrow and lay flat on the ground to avoid detection.

This has made the small wallaby, once thought to be extinct, an easy target for cats and wild foxes; and that means the number of species struggled as the marsupial learned to avoid its new predators.

But conservations say the wallabies slowly adapted their survival skills and learned to hide when a predator’s scent was detected.

Ranger in charge Sam Richards said the wallaby’s natural instinct is to lie down for cover when hiding from predators.

“They’re not used to these animals with predation skills that come from the ground, so this has been a big deal for them.

“But originally they didn’t have that skill; they didn’t know where the animal was coming from,” he said.

In 2008, there were only 65 flanged stud-tailed wallabies in Taunton National Park, located about 135 kilometers inland from Rockhampton in Queensland.

After 13 years of conservation, a survey conducted earlier this year showed the number had risen to around 1,300.

The instinct of the stud-tailed wallaby is to burrow into the earth to avoid being seen by predators flying overhead. (Provided)

Thermal imaging cameras lead the fight against wild animals

New thermal cameras provided by the Department of Environment and Science that monitor the species and detect wildlife have improved conservation outcomes in the park.

Mr Richards said thermal imaging cameras keep rangers from being detected by “extremely cunning” feral cats, which are leery of sounds and smells.

“The cameras allow us to move around the park without using white lights,” he said.

“This learned behavior can be passed on to their youngsters, reducing the effectiveness of conventional methods.”

A bridle-studded tail wallaby looks at the camera.
Slanted nail-tailed wallabies have increased steadily since the conservation program began.(provided)

Rangers use thermal cameras to identify feral cats, then shoot them with thermal goggles on guns.

“The thermal imager was recently used with a nighttime fire control program to remove five feral cats from the national park,” said Richards.

“We also conducted a trapping program which resulted in the removal of eight other feral cats from the park and an aerial baiting program to further reduce the numbers.”

Wallaby hunted to extinction

During the time of European settlement, flanged studded wallabies were common along the east coast of Australia and west of the Great Dividing Range.

Ranger uses thermal imager to spot wallabies
Park rangers use thermal cameras to monitor populations of flanged studded wallabies in central Queensland.(Provided)

Their numbers declined at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the last century, as they were considered pests and hunted by early European settlers for their fur.

Taunton National Park was established in 1973 for scientific research after a fencing contractor sighted the studded wallaby believed to be extinct – the marsupial’s first sighting in Australia in over 40 years .

Small wallabies have a distinctive line running down from the nape of the neck around the shoulders and a spur at the end of their tail.

Wallaby 3
The wallaby had not been seen for over 40 years before a chance sighting by a fence contractor.(Provided)


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