Conservation status: critically endangered
Banner image, Southern Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby at Mt Rothwell. Photo by Pete James
Currently, there are only 170 southern brush-tailed rock-wallabies that are known to be left in existence, and very recently the threat of the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires was almost enough to wipe out the entire species.
Mt Rothwell is home to one of Australia's very few key populations of Southern Brush-tailed Rock-wallabies and in February 2020 this sanctuary played a vital role in protecting the future of the species. As a large bushfire front roared towards Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve in Canberra, another main population of these wallabies faced an immediate threat. Odonata's on-ground team at Mt Rothwell, worked closely with Tidbinbilla and the Australian Defence Force to evacuate their Southern Brush-tailed Rock-wallabies to Mt Rothwell and ensure this species' survival. This rescue mission, coordinated by Odonata's Biodiversity Director, Annette Rypalski, was a resounding success with all animals surviving the trip from Canberra to Little River.
While this mission successfully avoided losing a key population of Southern Brush-tailed Rock-wallabies, it also highlighted the need for a more permanent, long-term solution to protect these animals well into the future that will not rely on emergency evacuations. In response to this problem, a philanthropist has offered the Southern Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby a lifeline at a 600ha property, near Avenel, Victoria. Renamed Widgewah Conservation Reserve, this sanctuary will be managed by Odonata and is preparing to welcome its first group of rock-wallabies from Mt Rothwell in 2022, with 90ha of the sanctuary set aside to support 200 animals.
Odonata's work with the Southern Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby is a key example of how sanctuaries play such a vital role in the breeding, protection and survival of threatened species. Using sanctuaries to future-proof this species is an important step towards down-listing its' conservation status and also hopefully allowing it to thrive beyond-the-fence one day.