Gotcha! Wildlife Camera Spots Australian Species Thought to Be Locally Extinct
New images from a wildlife camera trap set up in Western Australia’s Kimberley region are giving researchers hope that a marsupial feared locally extinct could be back.
The spectacled hare-wallaby popped into the frame on Nov. 24 for researchers conducting a wildlife survey on land near the town of Broome, owned by Yawuru, an indigenous group of people in Western Australia.
While wallabies are widespread in other parts of the continent, the population has seen sharp declines in the northwest region of the country, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The introduction of cats and foxes (both of which prey on baby wallabies) has hastened the species’ decline. The last known sighting of a spectacled hare-wallaby came in 2004—in the form of roadkill near Roebuck Plains.
Alexander Watson, ecologist at WWF-Australia, has been working with the Yawuru people to set up camera traps and guide monitoring efforts of the native wildlife.
“We need to keep a close eye on the threats to this rare and fascinating animal so we get the right information to help it survive into the future,” Watson said in a statement. “Their shelter and feeding requirements make them highly sensitive to habitat changes, so assessing their numbers is a good indicator of overall health of the local environment.”
Wallabies also face habitat loss from controlled burns, which can wipe out the grass tussock fields the animals use to shelter themselves from predators.