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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

13 September 2003

'Extinct' Wallabies Arrive Home From New Zealand

An Australian wallaby species that was previously thought to be extinct has 'come home' to South Australia.

The Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, and South Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, John Hill, today announced the arrival from New Zealand of the Mainland Tammar Wallabies, which once occurred on the South Australian mainland.

Minister Hill was today joined by South Australian Senator and Federal Minister for Family and Community Services, Amanda Vanstone (representing Dr Kemp), in welcoming home the wallabies.

In a project jointly funded by the Australian Government and the South Australian Department for Environment and Heritage, the repatriation and re-establishment of the 'knee-high' wallaby to Australia is underway. The funding includes over $100,000 from the Australian Government's $2.7 billion Natural Heritage Trust.

This combined support has allowed for trapping and international transfer of the wallabies, along with covering biosecurity clearance and permits, and the establishment of a monitoring program once the wallabies are released.

"This is a unique opportunity to reintroduce a long-extinct mainland species to the wild and represents a 'second chance' in ensuring the survival of an Australian animal," Dr Kemp said.

Mr Hill said that around 20 wallabies arrived on Qantas flights from New Zealand and will be vet-checked at Adelaide Zoological Park before being taken to the Monarto Zoological Park, where they will spend at least six months in quarantine. Professional animal handlers will ensure the safe transfer of the wallabies.

"The welfare of the animals is paramount, and every effort will be made to ensure the wallabies are quickly settled into Monarto Zoological Park," Mr Hill said. "We plan to repatriate up to another 80 animals over the coming months."

The South Australian mainland sub-species of the Tammar Wallaby (Macropus eugenii eugenii) is listed under the Australian Government's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) as 'extinct', unlike its close relative on Kangaroo Island which is not threatened.

DNA analysis conducted by the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Conservation and Management of Marsupials, at Macquarie University, found that the Tammar Wallabies on Kawau Island, New Zealand, are descendents of the extinct Australian sub-species. A former South Australia and New Zealand Governor, Sir George Grey, shipped the wallabies to Kawau Island near Auckland, New Zealand, over a century ago to include them in his private collection of foreign and indigenous flora and fauna.

The Kawau colony, therefore, represents genetic stock that no longer exists in the wild in Australia.

"Following the quarantine period, the wallabies will be released into three mainland locations, which may include National Parks, in at least two separate regional areas in South Australia. This will increase the likelihood of their recovery in the wild," Dr Kemp said.

"A detailed reintroduction program will involve careful monitoring of their recovery and in establishing populations. Site selection will also be subject to a public consultation process, in which the potential for control of feral animal predation will be a major consideration."

Mr Hill said that stakeholders are currently implementing comprehensive threat management programs to ensure the best possible opportunity of success.

"We are very lucky to have a number of community and conservation groups to assist with this ongoing work. One of these groups is the Royal Zoological Society of South Australia, which has a wealth of skills to contribute," he said.

"The University of Adelaide will also be contributing expertise toward monitoring the success of the program."

On New Zealand's Kawau Island, the Tammar Wallaby is classified as a 'Specified Noxious Animal', and the ultimate intention is to eradicate the species.

Commonwealth of Australia