Reintroducing Native Wildlife
With the removal of a large proportion of the feral animals by 1997 and the recovery of the local ecosystem well underway the project moved to its next phase; reintroducing wildlife to Francois Peron National Park. Since this time 6 animal species once found on the peninsula (but by then localy extinct) have been reintroduced to the peninsula, and more reintroductions are planned for the future.
Two of the reintroduced species – the malleefowl and bilby – have now been successfully established. These species are still quite rare but they have been breeding on the peninsula for several years and can occasionally be seen on the main roads and around Denham. A third species – the woylie – may still be present in very low numbers, but despite initial success and recruitment for six or seven years, has gradually declined due to prolonged drought and low level predation on a small population. This species has also recently declined in its strong hold areas of southwest Western Australia, and disease may be implicated in this statewide population crash.
Some species are much more susceptible to predation, and other reintroductions to Peron Peninsula have been more affected by this threatening process. Although the released mala (rufous hare-wallabies) and the banded hare-wallabies survived for 10 months and were surviving and breeding well, they disappeared because of a high susceptibility to cat predation and other natural predators like wedge-tailed eagles.
Quenda (southern brown bandicoots) were the latest species to be released into the national park in 2006 and 2007, and although some predation has occurred, this species has been breeding and persisting for over a year. The reintroduction is still in the early stages and it is hoped that they will establish themselves in the thicker scrub of the peninsula.
Download Project Eden’s re-introductions brochure here
Animals Reintroduced to Shark Bay
Malleefowl First released 1997
Woylie First released 1997
Bilby First released 2000
Banded hare-wallaby First released 2001
Mala (rufous hare-wallaby) First released 2001
Quenda (southern brown bandicoot) First released 2006
The Peron Captive Breeding Centre was established by CALM in 1996 to provide sufficient animals for some of the reintroductions. The centre has since bred more than 300 animals from five species – the western barred bandicoot, mala, bilby, banded hare-wallaby and malleefowl. Captive-bred mala, banded hare-wallabies and bilbies have already made contributions to Project Eden’s reintroduction programs and other conservation initiatives. The centre provides an opportunity to investigate some of the little-known, rarely studied Shark Bay species such as the banded hare-wallaby. Information about reproduction, behaviour, diet and physiology in arid environments increases understanding and contributes to improving our chances of conserving this and other threatened species.
Twenty-three mammal species were known to live on Peron Peninsula before European settlement. Today only nine species remain. Twelve are locally extinct and two are globally extinct. Although it is now too late to save globally extinct animals, Project Eden has reintroduced three locally extinct species. Other releases may include the western barred bandicoot, Shark Bay mouse, Chuditch (a small predatory marsupial) and greater stick-nest rat. Trial releases of chuditch and red-tailed phascogales are planned for the future. With feral animal control and further reintroductions, Shark Bay’s threatened species will once again flourish in their original habitats.
Malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata)
The malleefowl is a large, ground-dwelling bird that flies only when alarmed. Its short wings and upper body are boldly marked with bars, blotches and streaks of grey and chestnut, and fringed with black and white. It uses its powerful legs and claws to build nests of leaf litter, which it covers with large mounds of soil up to one metre high and five metres in diameter.
Much of its decline seems to be attributable to destruction of its habitat and predation of eggs and young before they reach maturity. In view of this, the approach taken was to collect eggs from wild birds nesting mounds and artificially incubate and rear the chicks to a more mature stage in captivity before releasing them into the wild.
Between September 1997 and September 1998, more than 65 malleefowl raised at the Peron Captive Breeding Centre were released at 14 sites in Francois Peron National Park. Eggs collected from active mounds in the southwest of Western Australia, such as at Kalbarri National Park, Nanga Station and northern wheat-belt reserves were artificially incubated at the centre. Some released animals were fitted with a necklace carrying a radio transmitter, and their dispersal and survival rates were monitored.
The malleefowl seem to be thriving in the national park. Nine active mounds have been discovered, and the birds’ nesting activity is regularly monitored. New chicks are seen in most years.
Check out a full fact sheet on the malleefowl here
Woylie (Bettongia penicillata)
The woylie is a small, nocturnal macropod (hopping marsupial). Its yellowish-grey fur is paler on the underbelly, and its orange-red tail is tipped with a black crest. It uses the long claws on its forefeet to dig for food and to build elaborate, dome-shaped grass nests. The woylie spends the day in its nest, which is built in a shallow scrape under a bush.
Between September 1997 and September 2000 a total of 147 woylies, sourced from sites in the southwest of Western Australia such as Dryandra Woodland and Batalling State Forest, were released at nine sites in Francois Peron National Park. This translocation was the first time the woylie had been reintroduced to an arid environment within its former range. The populations of woylies in the southwest of Western Australia had undergone phenomenal recovery in the 1990’s providing the opportunity for direct wild to wild translocation of this species. However, the species has undergone a population crash since 2001/02, and has now been placed back on the endangered species lists.
Most released animals were fitted with radio collars so that their survival rates and movements could be monitored. Thirty-three new woylies have been recorded since 2003.
The reintroduced woylies in Shark Bay were maintaining a small population, with new, wild-born joeys being recorded. They survived several drought years in the early 2000’s, but additional animals needed to be released in order to strengthen the gene pool and boost the size of the population. However, with the unexpected decline in the southwest populations, this has not been possible, and with little chance of surplus animals in the near future, the population has shrunk to be virtually undetectable. If the species recovers elsewhere, Project Eden will hope to obtain animals to re-stock the Peron Peninsula.
Check out a full fact sheet on the woylie here.
Greater bilby (Macrotis lagotis)
The greater bilby is a bandicoot with large ears, a pointed snout, and silky blue-grey fur. Its black and white tail is crested throughout its length. Bilbies are powerful excavators, digging spiralling burrows up to three metres long and 1.8 metres deep. The burrows contain no nest material, but are used as shelters by this nocturnal animal during the day.
Between October 2000 and 2005, a total of 151 bilbies from the breeding centre and another 20 from Dryandra (south-east of Perth), were released at 10 sites in Francois Peron National Park and South Peron. Radio transmitters were taped to some bilbies’ tails before release, allowing their movements to be monitored. Nearly 20 new recruits have been recorded so far, and many of our bilbies have been spotted on roads in and around the township of Denham and Monkey Mia. Track surveys carried out over two thirds of the Peron Peninsula in July 2007 showed that bilbies had spread out to be present in 22% of the areas surveyed.
The release of this species has so far been a great success. No more animals are planned to be released and o ur new bilby population will be monitored for at least five years, by which time we hope they will have continued to spread across the landscape and be well established. In 2007, bilbies from the Peron Captive Breeding Centre were sent to the ex-pastoral property - Lorna Glen, as part of a reintroduction program in the eastern rangelands of Western Australia.
Check out a full fact sheet on the bilby here.
Banded hare-wallaby (Lagostrophus fasciatus)
A small dark grizzled grey marsupial with transverse dark bands across its back, this wallaby lives in communal groups and finds shelter under dense shrubs during the day.
Banded hare-wallabies (or “merrnine”) are one of the world’s most restricted mammal species. Bernier and Dorre Islands in Shark Bay, protect the only wild populations in existence since the last sighting of this species on the mainland, over 100 years ago.
In 2001 a small group of banded hare-wallabies were released into the national park, as a trial. Unfortunately this reintroduction did not succeed, as this docile animal proved particularly naïve and susceptible to cat predation. However, some animals survived for 10 months and raised joeys, adapting to the habitat and food sources very well. This encourages Project Eden staff to keep up their efforts to improve cat control techniques and create the right conditions for success. When the feral threat has been controlled to a suitable level, another release of these hare-wallabies may be possible. In the mean time, Project Eden has been cooperating with the non-government conservation organisation ‘Australian Wildlife Conservancy’ to provide banded hare-wallabies for release onto their predator-free fauna sanctuary at Faure Island, in Shark Bay. Since 2004, 49 wallabies have been sent to their new home on Faure.
Check out a full fact sheet on the banded hare-wallaby here
Mala or Rufous hare-wallaby (Lagorchestes hirsutus)
An animal once found right across the arid region of Australia, the mala now only inhabits isolated pockets of mainland Australia, in fenced enclosures where it is protected from feral predators. The last wild mainland population went extinct in 1995. Inhabiting dune and spinifex country this small marsupial comes out from its ‘squat’ – a shallow scrape or trench under a small shrub - to feed at night. Twenty-nine animals from a protected Tanami desert population were brought to Shark Bay for captive breeding in 1999.
In 2001 a small group of mala were released into the national park as part of a trial reintroduction. Unfortunately this reintroduction did not succeed, mainly because of cat predation and some animals not adjusting to release well. However, evidence showed that some mala survived for up to 10 months and raised joeys, giving encouragement for further reintroductions if and when the feral cats can be controlled to a suitable level.
Check out a full fact sheet on the mala here
Quenda or southern brown banicoot (Isoodon obesulus)
Although suffering a reduction in its historical range, this tough little bandicoot is still reasonably common in the southwest and southeast of Australia, despite having to cope with domestic pets and humans. This nocturnal insectivore prefers low scrubby vegetation on sandy soils, like the coastal sand-plains around Perth in Western Australia. Unfortunately, destruction of habitat through urban expansion has meant many animals lose their homes to suburban sprawl every year.
Shark Bay was once part of their natural range and in 2006 and 2007, 40 refugee quenda from the Perth metropolitan area, were released in Francois Peron National Park. Despite some predation by feral cats, animals were breeding and scattering through the dense, low Lamarkea scrub of the Park. Several animals were radio-collared to track their survival and movements, but collars fall off fairly quickly, as this stocky little animal has almost no neck. Animals have since been monitored by trapping and looking for tracks in the release area. It is hoped that the released quenda will find enough refuge in this habitat to allow them to establish and spread out to other areas of the Peninsula over time.
Whilst tracks and signs of quenda persist near the release sites, and habitat continues to be cleared in the Perth area, Shark Bay will continue to receive more homeless quenda to boost the new population.
Check out a full fact sheet on the quenda here.