Western Australia Minister for Environment Donna Faragher
New Breeding Colony For World’s Rarest Marsupial
Victor P Taffa
Work is under way on Western Australia’s South Coast to establish a new breeding colony of the world’s rarest marsupial.
Environment Minister Donna Faragher said seven Gilbert’s Potoroos would be released today into a fenced reserve in a remote part of Waychinicup National Park, 25 km East of Albany.
Mrs. Faragher said less than 100 of the quokka-like animals were known to exist and were found at only two locations – the Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve and Bald Island, both near Albany.
“The aim of this project is to set up a second mainland population and to begin a wider re-introduction of the species into its former mainland habitats.” Mrs. Faragher said.
“Department of Conservation and Environment will be radio-tracking the potoroos to monitor their progress and to learn about their use of different vegetation types within the enclosure. This will assist in future work to be undertaken to establish new populations of the species.”
The animals, aged between two and six years, will be released into a 380 ha enclosure, surrounded by eight kilometres of two-metre high fence that will protect the potoroos from foxes and cats. The fence cost $750,000 to erect.
The enclosure has been built in long-unburnt vegetation including some dense heathland, almost identical to the potoroo habitat at Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve. In the long term, release outside the fence will allow colonisation of other suitable areas.
Four of the potoroos, two male and two female, are from Bald Island, while two males and one female are from Two Peoples Bay. A male and female Potoroo were released as pioneers two weeks ago.
Before 2005, Two Peoples Bay was the only known Gilbert’s Potoroo colony. Between 2005 and 2007, the Department of Environment and Conservation translocated 10 Potoroos to predator-free Bald Island.
Recent surveys at Bald Island have revealed an increased population of about 30 Potoroos and the successful establishment of the new breeding colony.
The $120,000 project to establish the world’s third population of Gilbert’s Potoroos at the Waychinicup National Park enclosure is funded by the State Government’s Natural Resource Management Program and DEC’s priority threatened species project funding.