18 February 2021

Rock wallaby and endangered orchid making their return in Namadgi

| Michael Weaver
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Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby

The endangered Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby hasn’t been seen in the ACT for more than 60 years. Photo: File.

The latest ACT Government five-year implementation progress reports for Canberra’s iconic Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby and the Brindabella Midge Orchid show that recent efforts to restore their habitat are helping to prevent their extinction.

The Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby hasn’t been seen in the wild in the ACT for more than 60 years, while the Brindabella Midge Orchid is only found in a single site located in Namadgi National Park.

Environment Minister Rebecca Vassarotti said the efforts to restore these two species are vital to returning the landscape to its former glory.

“We want to make Canberra a refuge for plants, animals and ecological communities devastated by climate change, habitat loss, bushfires and urban sprawl,” Ms Vassarotti said.

A breeding program has been introduced to protect the Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby, with a 120-hectare, predator-free exclosure, called Jedbinbilla, being constructed at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve that will sustain up to 200 Rock-wallabies.

Ms Vassarotti said the breeding program had been specifically designed to improve the wallabies’ genetic robustness after they were all but wiped out by introduced predators and commercial fur trade hunting in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

“While the Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby is the ACT’s mammal emblem, it hasn’t been seen in the wild in the ACT for more than 60 years, so we are aiming to return this species into the landscape where it belongs.

“We are also conducting research to better understand the animals and their environment so we can reintroduce wallabies from this population into the wild with a better chance of survival,” Ms Vassarotti said.

The Brindabella Midge Orchid that is found in one area of Namadgi National Park.

The Brindabella Midge Orchid that is found in one area of Namadgi National Park. Photo: Supplied.

Ms Vassarotti said the Brindabella Midge Orchid’s conservation plan is the maintenance of a viable, wild population of the species.

“This critically endangered orchid is only found in a single site located in Namadgi National Park, which is why we need to protect this species before we lose it forever.

“Our rangers on the ground are managing the threats to the species’ habitat while our conservation researchers are monitoring the orchid and habitat conditions,” she said.

ACT’s Conservator for Flora and Fauna Ian Walker said a seed bank from the wild population of the endangered orchid is held by the Australian National Botanic Gardens to help with research while insuring against further losses in the event of a bushfire or similar event.

“Over 11 years, we have been monitoring the single population of Brindabella Midge Orchid and protecting it as best we can from threats. We have seen annual increases and decreases in the number of flowers depending on the conditions, but overall, the number of plants appears to be stable over this time,” Mr Walker said.

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He also said the safe haven for the rock-wallaby will provide animals for reintroduction to the wild and opportunities for research on the ecology of the species.

“The protected population of Southern Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby in the Jedbinbilla safe haven at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve will also act as insurance against further losses in the wild,” Mr Walker said.

“The safe-haven will also provide opportunities for community outreach and education, allowing the public to understand more about our mammal emblem.”

The implementation progress reports for the Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby and Brindabella Midge Orchid are available on the EPSDD website.

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