Collaborating to protect the rare Proserpine rock-wallaby

Oct 17, 2012 | ,

The sailing catamaran ‘Wild Cat’ left Mackay Marina before dawn. Crewed by Wild Mob and Reef Catchments staff, the catamaran was on a passage through rough seas and overcast conditions to Gloucester Island. After picking up a team of volunteers from Griffith University at Airlie Beach, the ‘Wild Cat’ reached Gloucester Island late afternoon in time for us to establish our base camp for the next 9 days.

That evening a team briefing was conducted by staff of the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. Our task: a comprehensive survey of the endangered Proserpine rock-wallaby with the goal of improving our understanding of the biology and ecology of the rare unique species.

In much improved weather, calm seas, and blue skies, morning routines were quickly established with captured wallabies being safely and carefully examined. Wallaby health was ascertained under expert veterinarian supervision before they were released back into their natural habitat. In the afternoons, volunteers and staff made major efforts in removing weeds toxic to the wallabies, such as pink periwinkle, and habitat altering weeds, such as rubber vine.

60 Proserpine rock-wallabies were examined. The data collected will provide invaluable information that will guide conservation of the species. Weeds within four areas of habitat, critical for wallaby survival, were removed as part of ongoing management strategies by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and hundreds of kilograms of marine debris removed from the island.

As our only way to access remote wallaby habitat areas was by small boats, opportunity arose to remove marine debris from turtle-nesting beaches and in areas where seabirds might suffer entanglement from rope, nets and other plastics. Libby and Dave Edge of EcoBarge Clean Seas transported the marine rubbish to the mainland after first collecting data describing the type and amounts of debris as part of a nationwide research project designed to find ways of reducing this threat to the marine environment.

Working together, Reef Catchments, Wild Mob, Queensland Parks and Wildlife, and Eco Barge Clean Seas helped to protect and preserve the wallabies.

During the survey, it seemed that the natural environment rewarded the team for its efforts. Humpback whales made regular morning transits around our workboats and flotillas of manta rays provided a spectacular backdrop in the afternoons.

The collaboration continued when Reef Catchments and the Office of National Parks Minister Steve Dickson issued a joint media release about the survey of the Proserpine rock-wallabies on Gloucester Island. Featured in newspapers Courier Mail, Daily Mercury, Whitsunday Coast Guardian and Whitsunday Times as well as radio station ABC Tropical North, the survey was well-received by local and state-wide press in September.