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Woylies to return to South Australia after 100 years

Environment

A critically endangered marsupial will be reintroduced to mainland South Australia more than a century after they disappeared from the area.

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Key Contacts

Darren Grover

Head of Healthy Land and Seascapes WWF Australia www.wwf.org.au/what-we-do/rewild-the-yorke

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As part of the Marna Banggara restoration project, 100 woylies will be translocated from the Upper Warren region of Western Australia to the lower end of the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia.

Head of Healthy Land and Seascapes at WWF Australia Darren Grover said the reintroduction will be made possible through feral predator control in the region.

“We need to make the area as safe as possible,” he said.

“Part of the [Marna Banggara] program has been the construction of a fence across the narrow part of the peninsula, to manage feral cat and fox populations.”

The fence, which is nearing completion, will stretch up to 25 kilometres across the foot of the Yorke Peninsula, preventing pests from entering a 150,000 hectare safe zone for native species.

Construction of the fence follows a five-year Baiting for Biodiversity program which has successfully reduced fox and feral cat numbers in the region. This stabilised malleefowl and tammar wallaby populations and saw the return of other native animals.

Woylies once inhabited more than 60 per cent of mainland Australia, but are now only found in pockets of Western Australia and some South Australian islands.

Western Australian woylie populations have paved the way for the planned translocation.

Results from the annual woylie population check, run by the WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA), suggest the Balban region of the state now hosts up to 40,000 woylies.

Senior Research Scientist for the DBCA Dr Adrian Wayne said the results from Balban mean the translocation is feasible.

“It is the perfect place to source woylies for a translocation,” he said.

“Then we can re-establish them in other parts of their range, where they used to be, but have been lost.”

Their return to the Yorke Peninsula will be vital for the restoration of local ecosystems. Woylies spread native plant seeds and dig up approximately four tonnes of dirt per year, improving water infiltration and nutrient cycling.

The project is also expected to boost tourism and improve agricultural productivity in the area.

The first translocation is set to take place in winter 2021.

Woylies are the first of four native species to be reintroduced to the southern Yorke Peninsula under the program.

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