New genetic strategy to improve the success of reintroducing critically endangered wallaby into the wild

cesar’s Dr Andrew Weeks has had the pleasure of assisting to release a number of brush-tailed rock wallabies back into the wild.

Fifteen individuals of this critically endangered species were released over two occasions in November 2012 at Moora Moora Creek in the Grampians National Park as part of the Grampians brush-tailed rock-wallaby reintroduction program.

These particular releases were part of a new phase of the reintroduction program, which was a result of a program review conducted earlier this year by cesar’s Genetic Insights team, lead by Dr Andrew Weeks.

The reintroduction program, initiated by the Victorian Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby Recovery Team and DSE in November 2008, had not achieved target numbers after 3 years, with only 6 individuals from 22 released still alive at the time of the program review (this number fell to 3 animals prior to the releases undertaken in November 2012).

No recruitment, a high mortality rate and inbreeding within the captive breeding program were identified by cesar as the primary reasons for the failure of the reintroduction effort.

As part of the review, cesar provided a new strategy for the reintroduction program, which was adopted by DSE and ratified by the Victorian Translocation Panel. This included a program aimed at the genetic improvement of brush-tailed rock-wallabies by crossing individuals from the southern (Victorian) genetic background with individuals from a central-derived (NSW) genetic background.

The cross breeding of these animals is occurring at Mt Rothwell Conservation Park, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and Adelaide Zoo.

It is hoped these genetically improved animals will put the Grampians reintroduction back on track.

Cover image: Photo by Andrew Weeks, Cesar Australia

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