A sight not seen in over a century is unfolding on the Yorke Peninsula as tiny brush-tailed bettongs return to their native habitat as soil engineers for one of the nation’s most ambitious rewilding projects.
After more than ten years of planning, and $2.6 million of Commonwealth funding, 40 brush-tailed bettongs, have this week been returned to a native refuge in Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park.
Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the pilot release was the first step in rewilding a number of native species across the southern Yorke Peninsula and that the return of the first brush-tailed bettong had a particular role to play because of its status as a native ‘soil engineer’.
“These amazing animals turn over soil at night as they forage for fungi which in turn provides a multitude of benefits like soil aeration,” Minister Ley said.
“A century ago, they were wiped out locally by feral predators and their return is a major step in rewilding research and of enormous significance to the local Narungga community.
“For over a decade the southern Yorke Peninsula has been working to this point, establishing predator controls (including a 25 kilometre 1.8m fence), controlling pest species and reintroducing native vegetation.
“The brush-tailed bettong is the first of a number of species that will be reintroduced including the southern brown bandicoot, red-tailed phascogale, western quoll and barn owl will also be augmented.
“Significantly, the project area is not a closed reserve but part of a working landscape, and the species will eventually be reintroduced to existing areas of native vegetation.”
Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey said the release of the bettongs was the result of years of community planning and predator control.
“The amount of preparation, hard work and dedication to prepare the southern Yorke Peninsula for this moment has been incredible,” Mr Ramsey said.
“The release marks the point where there has been sufficient reduction of predators within the sanctuary protected by the 25-kilometre control fence which cuts across the foot of the peninsula.
“The almost two-metre-high fence is designed to prevent the migration of foxes and feral cats into the Marna Banggara project area, keeping the reintroduced species safe from feral pests.
“I was pleased to be at the event when the fence was first completed and see first-hand how this project will enable the release of native animals which will be largely protected from feral cats and foxes.
“The fence does not provide an impervious barrier, but channels movement to congregation points where feral animals can be controlled.
“Already Yorke Peninsula is a great tourist destination and the proliferation of native species in the area will be a further boost to that industry.”
The 40 brush-tailed bettongs have been successfully reintroduced through the combined efforts of the project managers Northern Yorke Landscape Board, and other key partners including WWF-Australia, Zoos SA and the South Australian Government.
The project is jointly funded through the Northern Yorke Landscape Board, the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, the South Australian Department for Environment and Water, WWF-Australia and the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife.
Other partners in developing and delivering the project include Regional Development Australia, the South Australian Tourism Commission, Zoos SA, the FAUNA Research Alliance, BirdLife Australia, the Nature Conservation Society of SA, the Narungga Nation Aboriginal Corporation, Primary Producers SA, Primary Industries and Regions SA, Conservation Volunteers Australia, Legatus Group, the Yorke Peninsula Council, Yorke Peninsula Tourism and the Scientific Expedition Group.
To find out more Marna Banggara: Rewilding Yorke Peninsula visit: www.marnabanggara.com.au