• Venessa Merrin

Endangered Mala released into biggest feral predator-free area on mainland Australia

While the world is facing a global extinction crisis, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy is taking positive action, and has reintroduced the regionally extinct Mala to its traditional habitat within the largest feral predator-free area on mainland Australia.

This nationally significant also project featured on ABC’s 7.30. You can watch the clip here.

AWC has released 30 Mala (Rufous Hare-wallaby) into the sprawling 9,400 hectare feral predator-free area at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary, marking the beginning of an ambitious rewilding program which is set to secure a significant increase in the populations of at least 10 nationally-threatened mammals.

The Mala include the last remaining animals from Watarrka National Park, which were moved to Newhaven in an emergency translocation in late 2017. The Watarrka population had been devastated as a result of a large wildfire which left the animals exposed to birds of prey. To save these animals, AWC rallied to build a special-purpose, 143 hectare, feral predator-free safe haven while the larger feral predator free area was completed.

Mala from AWC’s Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary have also been released into the completed Stage 1 of the Newhaven Endangered Wildlife Restoration Project. Construction of the 44 kilometre fence, completed in March last year, involved the installation of more than 8,500 fence pickets, the rolling out 400 kilometres of plain wire and 130 kilometres of mesh netting, and the application of more than one million fence clips.

Once the gates were closed, AWC feral animal control officers, and Warlpiri Newhaven Rangers set about the task of removing every last feral cat from the area. After a false alarm in September, the last cat was removed in December 2018.

An intensive monitoring program was then implemented to ensure that the last feral predator had been removed. This included the use of camera traps, tracking and dusting, with no detection of cats. A total of 46 cats, two foxes and all rabbits were removed from within the fence.

The Mala, extinct in the wild on mainland Australia, is a small kangaroo weighing up to 1.3 kilograms with long, soft, reddish-brown fur. Mala were once abundant across a massive area of central and western Australia.

However, the population collapsed, primarily as a result of predation by foxes and feral cats. The last wild population was declared extinct in 1991, but before they disappeared, a small number of Mala were taken from the wild for captive breeding. There are now five semi-wild populations on mainland Australia, totalling around 500 animals.

The Mala will soon be joined at Newhaven by other threatened species including the Red-tailed Phascogale and Numbat, followed next year by the Brush-tailed Bettong (Woylie), Greater Bilby and Golden Bandicoot. Plans are being finalised for the translocations of Western Quolls, Burrowing Bettongs, Shark Bay Mice and Central Rock-rats.

AWC’s network of large-scale, feral predator-free areas and its land management programs, which are informed by good science, are helping to buck the trend of the global extinction crisis in this country by protecting many of Australia’s threatened species and their habitats.

The United Nations Global Assessment report has put the world on notice that one million species are at risk of extinction unless radical action is taken to protect their habitats. Australia has a dire record in mammal extinctions – 31 species have gone extinct since European settlement, and a further 56 are facing with extinction.

Stage 2 of Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary will expand the feral predator-free area to a massive 100,000 hectares.

As a not-for-profit, AWC relies on the generosity of its supporters to fund its projects and fulfil its mission to protect Australia’s natural capital.


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By Dr John Woinarski, eminent ecologist and AWC Director My world has been lived in and for nature. The bush permeated my childhood. Its beauty and mystery inspire me, giving salve to my life. Endless

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