There will soon be a second mainland population of the world’s most endangered marsupial, the Gilbert’s potoroo, with the recent completion of a fenced reserve area near Albany.
Environment and Climate Change Minister David Templeman said the predator-proof reserve area would increase the security of the species and help ensure its survival.
“This innovative project is part of the Carpenter Government’s commitment to protecting our native fauna and ensuring future generations are able to see unique creatures like potoroos living in the wild,” Mr Templeman said.
The fenced area follows the establishment of a new colony of Gilbert’s potoroos on Bald Island east of Albany. Ten founder animals were brought to the island from the tiny mainland population at Two People’s Bay Nature Reserve between 2005 and 2007.
A Department of Environment and Conservation survey at Bald Island in April found 11 potoroos had been born on the island. Five of those had not been caught previously, which was a positive indicator of a growing population.
Seven of the original founder animals were also captured in the survey, but the other three had been captured as recently as 2007.
“So it is likely all the founders are still alive and there are more young potoroos that haven’t yet been discovered,” the Minister said.
“The original aim was to reach a population of 20 on Bald Island before any were removed for other translocation projects, and it’s likely that this figure has been reached.”
There is a potential risk for either of the two current populations to be wiped out by disasters such as uncontrollable wildfire, which means creating a second mainland population has been a high priority.
“DEC has had great success establishing the species at Bald Island, and this new fenced reserve area will further boost Gilbert’s potoroo numbers,” he said.
“It is a very exciting time for those who have been working over the past few years to bring the species back from the brink of extinction.”
The new fenced reserve has been built in a remote part of Waychinicup National Park, in long-unburnt vegetation including some dense heathland almost identical to the potoroo habitat at Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve.
About 380ha of bushland is surrounded by 8km of two metre high fence that will protect the potoroos from foxes and cats.
Between six and 10 animals will be introduced into the new secure area this spring from Two Peoples Bay and Bald Island. In the long term, release outside the fence will allow colonisation of other suitable areas.
Establishing a second mainland population of the Gilbert’s potoroo was identified as a priority project under the Carpenter Government’s ‘Saving our Species’ biodiversity conservation initiative.
The project will continue to be funded by DEC as part of the department’s goal to see the long-term survival of the Gilbert’s potoroo.
The Gilbert’s potoroo recovery program has also been supported by the Federal Government’s Natural Heritage Trust through South Coast Natural Resource Management Inc.
Mr Templeman said it was likely that the enclosure could also provide protection and refuge for other threatened species, in particular the dibbler and western ground parrot.
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