The population of this small community of bridled nailtail
wallabies is steadily increasing. The project began with 16 animals
but has now increased to 32. Photo: Peter Johnson
In a partnership between conservation and mining, the Gregory mine
in central Queensland is turning nearby land into a "half-way
house" to help re-establish the endangered Bridled Nailtail
The wallaby's name is drawn from a bridle marking on its shoulders
and a "nail" at the end of its tail. The project by the University
of Queensland, Centre for Conservation Biology, part funded by BHP
Coal, began three years ago and recently scored a success with the
release of six of the wallabies into a large enclosure built at the
mine. The 3 km-long "half-way house" encompasses about 50 hectares
of grassland and old brigalow growth and keeps the animals safe
from predators. The wallabies, now sporting radio-tracking collars,
were released from a smaller holding pen where they have been under
intense observation by a research team led by con-servation
biologist Dr Carl Rudd from the University of Queensland.
Over the past three years, Dr Rudd has worked on the animal's
genetics, breeding and general physiology and food requirements.
The six released in December are having their location tracked so
Dr Rudd can see which areas in the enclosure are being used by the
According to Peter Roe, BHP Coal's Environmental Services Manager,
once the habitat needs for the wallabies are known, rehabilitation
of the mined land may be tailored to accommodate them. "The
thinking is that eventually there won't be any predator-proof
enclosures protecting the animals," he said. "They'll just be fauna
on mined land and surrounds."
The bridled nailtail once occupied habitats from the Murray River
in Victoria to Charters Towers in north Queensland. But with the
advent of more than a century of land clearing and pests such as
foxes, there are only an estimated 600 wallabies left.
"It is indicative of what's happened to a lot of our small wildlife
of half to five and a half kilos," said Dr Rudd. "They are either
extinct or there has been a massive reduction in range and
Land clearing is a huge issue and BHP's strategy is now moving
towards rehabilitating land with native species rather than just
improved pasture species for grazing.
"The drive to rehabilitate mined land to pastures is actually a
legal requirement on some of our mines," explained Mr Roe. "But we
also perceive that as a result of the large-scale clearing, there
is an opportunity to return some native ecosystems."
It was Peter Roe who first thought of helping an endangered species
at the Gregory minesite. He had seen publicity about the bridled
nailtail and its threatened population status. At the time, BHP was
interested in developing a native fauna component in its
"I started looking around to see if there was any research that
might be able to assist us with the fauna component of developing
native eco-systems." He describes the current project as more
actively involved with rehabilitating native fauna. "We can assist
with (the wallaby's survival) as well as getting some clear
indications of the habitat requirements for a native species," he
said. "It also gives us a lead on what other habitat requirements
that may be needed for other species."
The next move may be to bring in wild stock from Taunton Scientific
Reserve, near Dingo. "If we capture another six animals and bring
them to Gregory that brings instant diversity in the breeding
population," said Mr Roe. "I don't know what numbers we'll have in
another couple of years!"