Three females of one of South Australia’s most endangered mammal species, the warru, have been translocated to Maku Valley and Hinkley to help save the species.
A rarity in the wild, the warru (black-footed rock wallaby, Petrogale lateralis) is a small, agile marsupial that can be found darting among rocky outcrops and caves across western and southern Western Australia, Northern Territory and part of South Australia.
The warru was classified as endangered in 2016.
Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) land management ranger Oska Mills says climate change and introduced species had led to a decline in the warru population.
“Cats and foxes have an impact, they’re kind of the main introduced predators,” he says. “Buffelgrass as an invasive species kind of changes the way fire behaves, that can then impact the fire sensitive habitat the wallabies need.
“But also the drought, I think the 2018-2019 drought really knocked them back, particularly in the population over in Kalka [in SA’s far north-west].”
A little-known female warru stress mechanism complicated the task of trapping the breed for the team known as the Warru Rangers.
“The mum warru is stressed when it sees us and they chuck out the babies from the pouch,” Warru East ranger Isaac Namai says. “It’s scared because they’ve never seen people like us before.”
Mills said the stress mechanism meant rangers had to come up with solutions. “If they’re [warru] stressed in the trapping, they can have a tendency to try and kick out the pouch shell,” he says. “So we have to put them back in and sew it up, but that’s something we have to manage in the trapping.”
In May this year, Warru Rangers translocated three female warru, following on from the translocation of six in September 2021.
A total of 14 have been translocated as part of the aim to supplement the population in the Tomkinson Ranges, near Kalka.
Mills says the warru population is now beginning to recover on its own.
“After the drought finished, they are coming back up and repopulating in a lot of areas naturally,” he says. “The population there is recovering on its own but there’s a bit of a lag time between the end of the drought and the food and plant resources being more abundant and the population coming back.
“[Our work] is to give them a bit of a kickstart so that they can really get going in case there’s another drought.”
The Warru Rangers are planning another reintroduction of warru in the Everard Ranges, about 100km north-west of Marla, SA, after a period of extinction in that area.
In August 2021, the National Indigenous Australians Agency provided $8.3 million to ensure the Warru Kaninytjaku ranger program could continue for another seven years.
Emma Ruben is a writer at the National Indigenous Times.
The Greenlight Project is a year-long look at how regional Australia is preparing for and adapting to climate change.
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