Tamar Wallaby Reintroduction
To breed and reintroduce tamar wallabies into their former range in Australia
South Australian mainland tammars, Macropus eugenii eugenii, are one of three subspecies of the tammar wallaby. The Western Australian and SA mainland subspecies have declined due to vegetation clearance and fox predation, but with no foxes on Kangaroo Island, that subspecies has remained abundant. In WA, tammars hung on in a few small populations, and have increased recently due to a major fox control program by conservation authorities there.
SA mainland tammars have been officially listed as extinct in the wild since 1920s, but came back from extinction due to a strange and fortunate twist. In the 1860s Governor Grey of South Australia took up the governorship of New Zealand, and took with him a group of tammar wallabies. In 1991 scientists from CSIRO suggested that the New Zealand feral tammars may be the last remnant of the SA mainland subspecies. This was confirmed in 1999, and some of the tammars were repatriated back to Australia for a release into the wild, before the feral population in New Zealand was exterminated.
After their rediscovery in New Zealand, the first of several groups of tammars were imported back into Australia in 2003. In all, 85 tammars were brought from New Zealand and housed at off show facilities at Monarto Zoo. There, a captive breeding programme has produced over 200 joeys in 5 years. This rate of reproduction is far greater than would be possible naturally, and has utilised a technique called cross-fostering. By fostering the young of mainland tammar wallabies into the pouches of Kangaroo Island tammar wallabies, the common subspecies takes over the time and energy intensive part of raising the young, freeing up the mainland mother to produce further young. This has significantly increased the reproductive output of the mainland tammar wallabies, thus ensuring sufficient numbers to maintain a viable population and provide sufficient animals for release into Innes National Park.
Innes National Park is one of the largest areas of native vegetation remaining on the Yorke Peninsula of South Australia, and contains areas of dense mallee, coastal thickets, salt lakes, grasslands and rocky cliff lines. With most of the Yorke Peninsula being dedicated to farming, Innes represents an important park for conserving the regions biodiversity, and was created in 1970 to conserve the western whipbird which had then recently been discovered in the area.
An intensive baiting program has been undertaken at Innes since 2003 to control foxes, a major threat to tammar wallabies. Four groups of wallabies have been released into the wild at Innes in November 2004, June 2005, October 2006 and November 2008. These released wallabies have been monitored by radio-tracking, spotlighting and trapping, and currently there are thought to be more than 100 individuals at Innes. Animals are surviving and breeding, with the third generation of animals now being born on site.
The baiting program associated with the tammar release has also had beneficial effects for other local wildlife including mallee fowl, hooded plovers, painted button quail, goannas, as well as whipbirds.
WAZA Conservation Project 09009 is implemented by the Mainland Tammar Recovery Team and Conservation Ark - Zoos SA and is supported by Mainland Tammar, Wallaby Recovery Team, Department for Environment and Heritage (SA), University of Adelaide, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Conservation Volunteers Australia.
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