Importance of diurnal refugia to a hare-wallaby reintroduction in Western Australia
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Natural Sciences
In an effort to learn more about the potential for reintroduction of hare-wallabies to sites in Australia, 34 captive-bred hare-wallabies were released onto Peron Peninsula within the Shark Bay World Heritage Property in 2001 as part of an experimental reintroduction program. One objective of this experiment was to characterise their behaviour and daytime refugia to identify suitable habitat for future releases. The mala (Lagorchestes hirsutus) and merrnine (Lagostrophus fasciatus) were fitted with radio-transmitters and tracked daily. Merrnine were more faithful to a previously occupied shelter than mala. Mala maintained a solitary daytime habit at all times. Within the study area, mala preferentially sought low-lying vegetation primarily comprising the species Lamarchea hakeifolia, which provided dense cover up to 1 m in height, under which they constructed scrapes. L. hakeifolia was preferred as shelter vegetation instead of Triodia (spinifex) hummocks, despite Triodia hummock habitat being preferred by mala in central Australia. Merrnine occupied taller vegetation with an open understorey to 1.5 m, although the extremity of the understorey remained dense at this height. Individual merrnine sometimes sheltered with conspecifics of the opposite sex. Since both species utilised floristically and structurally variable vegetation, we suggest that they have the ability to cope with vegetation that has been altered by changes in fire regimes and introduced herbivores. This is particularly important for future reintroduction exercises as the results suggest that vegetation characteristics required to support these species, particularly mala, may be variable rather than limited to perceived necessary habitat types in central Australia or on islands. These results should allow future reintroduction projects to consider a wider range of release-site options during their planning phase.