Mining giant has money for the little guys

XSTRATA has committed $3 million over three years to help the Environmental Protection Agency ensure the survival of Australia's second most endangered mammal – the northern hairy-nosed wombat.
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The northern hairy-nosed wombat.

Christine Feary

There are currently just over 100 northern hairy-nosed wombats left in existence, all living in one location at Queensland's Epping Forest National Park.

The $3 million will go towards a project to relocate some of the wombat population to a new colony in Yarran Downs, southern Queensland.

While the EPA has taken action previously to protect the wombats, constructing a dingo-proof fence to guard against predators, it said the entire species is in danger of being wiped out by fire, flood or disease because it is concentrated in one area.

Xstrata's $3 million contribution will be used to relocate some of the wombats to their new home in Yarran Downs, which will include:

  • Building a 6km electric fence to protect the wombats from predators;
  • Removing predators from within fenced areas;
  • Providing water and food stations;
  • Building phone and power lines to run lights and equipment;
  • Supplying computers, radio, internet, and local area networks;
  • Establishing a camp to house the researchers monitoring the wombats after release;
  • Purchasing infra-red cameras to monitor wombat movements and genetic profiling equipment using blood and hair analysis, radio telemetry and remote camera; and
  • Ongoing pest and weed management.

Queensland Minister for Climate Change, Sustainability and Innovation Andrew McNamara said the project was not without risk.

“Moving homes is highly stressful, even for humans," he said.

“We can't guarantee that the animals will react well to their changed environment, but there is a greater risk for the species if we don't establish a second colony.

“Every effort will be made to keep stress to a minimum, and the EPA has the world's foremost northern hairy-nosed wombat experts overseeing the project."

The EPA aims to establish four separate colonies for the wombats over the next 15 years.