Its lights out for rabbits at Uluru this week as teams of volunteers fight to protect the park’s endangered mala, a Rufous Hare Wallaby, from ravenous rabbit invaders.
“We have deployed a dozen Environment Department volunteers from national parks and offices across the country to eliminate the rabbits that are breeding in Uluru’s mala enclosure,” said Senator Simon Birmingham, Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment.
“The endangered mala are extinct in the wild in the Northern Territory, but survive in a purpose-built enclosure in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park,” Senator Birmingham said.
“When the park’s mala paddock was built back in 2005 it was cleared of feral predators, but some wily rabbits eluded us and they are now competing with the mala for food.”
Senator Birmingham joined volunteers at the start of their two week blitz. The volunteers are working with experienced national park staff, fumigating rabbit warrens and reinforcing the mala paddock fence with a fine mesh that will keep out any future rabbit incursions.
The volunteers come from a range of professions, from cartography and fire control through to grants and atmospheric physics. They bring with them plenty of environmental knowledge and a range of hands-on conservation experience, and will go back to their jobs and communities with a deeper understanding of life in Australia’s Red Centre.
The park is trialling this volunteering approach with Environment Department staff initially, to iron out any kinks in the process. There are hopes to open up future volunteering opportunities to the general public, letting people get hands-on to save wildlife in Commonwealth national parks.
“In a fortnight, these volunteers will make a major dent in rabbit numbers, they might even be able to eradicate this furry menace from the mala paddock altogether,” Senator Birmingham said.
“The staff at Uluru are working valiantly to keep rabbit numbers down, but there comes a point where business as usual isn’t enough, you need a blitz approach to tackle things once and for all.”
Mala are a deeply significant species at Uluru, as creation ancestors for the park’s Anangu Aboriginal owners. The species was reintroduced to Uluru in 2005 and the population is thriving, growing from 30 mala to more than 200. Uluru currently holds the largest population of mainland mala in existence, making the ongoing success of the park’s mala reintroduction project critically important to the future survival of the species.