CRITICALLY ENDANGERED YALGIRI (BETTONGS) MAKING HISTORY ON YORKE PENINSULA
It’s the latest chapter in an evolving, historic comeback story. After disappearing from Guuranda (Yorke Peninsula) more than a century ago due to habitat loss and the spread of introduced predators, including foxes and feral cats, yalgiri (brush-tailed bettongs), one of Australia’s rarest marsupials are defying the odds on Narungga Country.
New monitoring and heartwarming images from the field have confirmed that wildlife at the centre of the Marna Banggara project’s tireless collaborative efforts are thriving. The population of yalgiri (brush-tailed bettongs) continues to grow in Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park - a promising sign for this ambitious initiative to restore lost native wildlife to southern Yorke Peninsula, South Australia.
Known as yalgi (singular) and yalgiri (plural) in the language of the local Narungga People, brush-tailed bettongs once inhabited more than 60% of mainland Australia. Their road to recovery is ongoing and has not been without challenges during the multi-year process of reintroduction that commenced in 2021. But according to WWF-Australia’s Rewilding Project Manager Rob Brewster, the recent monitoring indicates that the Marna Banggara project is breaking new ground in mainland species reintroduction.
“If this population can be sustained over time, it would be the first successful reintroduction of this species beyond islands and fenced safe havens,” Rob says.
120 yalgiri (brush-tailed bettongs) have been released into Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park, translocated from nearby Wedge Island and one group from the Upper Warren region of Western Australia - one of the few remaining strongholds for the species on the mainland. The latest release was coordinated in a cultural exchange with Noongar and Narungga Traditional Owners.
Researchers recently checked in on the health of the yalgiri - to see how they are doing in their new home. The results have been extremely encouraging. Nearly half of the bettongs caught were determined to be originally born on southern Yorke Peninsula, and over 93% of the mature females were carrying pouch young.
One of the yalgi caught was a juvenile ‘young at foot’ male whose mum was also born on Yorke Peninsula.
“He was a couple of months old and almost ready to venture out on his own. At this stage, he would be spending time in and out of mum’s pouch,” said Chloe Frick, a PhD candidate at the University of Adelaide who is monitoring the bettong reintroduction.
“It’s wonderful to see these Yorke Peninsula-born bettongs are surviving the juvenile stage and now having pouch young of their own.”
Overall, the Marna Banggara team couldn’t be happier with the results. “It’s fantastic to see so many new animals in the population. It shows that the bettongs we released in 2021 and 2022 are comfortable in the landscape, they’re finding food, they’re finding shelter, and they’re finding mates,” said Derek Sandow, Northern and Yorke Landscape Board Ecologist.
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The Marna Banggara project is jointly funded through the Northern and Yorke Landscape Board, the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, the South Australian Department for Environment and Water, WWF-Australia, and Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife, in partnership with the Narungga Nation Aboriginal Corporation and with the support of Traditional Custodians, the Narungga People.