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1 April, 2021

Hopping to a new home

FOUR hundred agile wallabies will finally be able to roam free in a new safe habitat, thanks to The Agile Project (TAP) which has obtained all the necessary approvals and equipment to begin relocating them from Cairns’ Northern Beaches.

By Tanya Murphy

Four hundred agile wallabies will finally be able to roam free in a new safe habitat, thanks to The Agile Project (TAP) which has obtained all the necessary approvals and equipment to begin relocating them from Cairns’ Northern Beaches.

Relocation will begin this month thanks to a group of local businesses who have provided a specially fitted out van to transport the wallabies in a method designed to cause minimal stress to the animals.

The project began four years ago when local ecologist Shai Ager saw that development was encroaching on the wallabies’ habitat and confining them into local sports fields, sides of roads and suburban backyards.

“I am personally beaming with excitement as this is a dream of mine and something we’ve been working hard on for four years,” said Ms Ager.

“In the past two years, more than 1000 wallabies have been killed due to car strikes, dog attacks and other unknown causes. This is not only a major concern for our precious wildlife but also our community.

“This wallaby relocation is going to be the largest Macropod Relocation Australia has ever seen and could change the way our country deals with wildlife and human conflict.

“The Agile Project hopes to set a precedent that relocation is an option and should be considered before culling.”

TAP was granted a Damage Mitigation Permit to relocate 400 wallabies, after winning a court case against the the Queensland Government through the Queensland and Civil Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).

According to Ms Ager, it was previously argued that relocation was too stressful for wildlife, but TAP developed a method which causes minimal stress to the animals.

The animals will be lured into self-closing soft cage traps baited with food, and volunteers who are experienced in handling wallabies will move them in silence to minimise stress.

“We individually take them out of the traps and put them in shade-cloth bags, which are very well ventilated but dark enough that they can’t see out, and then we hang the bags up in the van,” said Ms Ager.

“We’ve tested this method and it was a massive success. The first wallaby that we relocated, was perfectly calm when released, and stopped to look back at us as if to say ‘thank you!’ then continued to happily hop away.”

Under the approval, only ten wallabies can be moved per day, and only when the weather conditions permit, so it is expected to take around two months for volunteers to relocate the 400 wallabies.

“TAP was very fortunate to secure two perfect locations for the wallabies, one north of Cairns and one south, each within about an hour’s drive,” said Ms Ager.

“Both are on private property, far away from roads and surrounded by national park which means they will never be developed.”

There are actually more than 750 wallabies living in the Northern Beaches but the Department of Environment and Science (DES) has given approval for 400 to be moved initially.

The Agile Project relocation volunteers Joel Groberg, Holly Jay, Rachel Blok and Steve Jackson, with sponsors Justin Kelly, Darren Halpin The Agile Project founder Shai Ager, Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch and Division Nine councillor Brett Olds

“After the 400 are moved, we’ll do another ecological assessment of those remaining in the Northern Beaches, to see how breeding is going, and see how many road deaths there still are,” said Ms Ager.

“We’re also working really well with council who have put in more than $100,000 of fencing to stop the wallabies going onto roads and sporting fields, and vegetation management, to stop them crossing the road to get to grass.”

Ms Ager thanked the huge array of volunteers, organisations and businesses who contributed to making the project a success.

The van was provided by Halpin Partners Accountants, The Palms, James Home Services Australia and Coral Coast Financial Services.

The cloth bags were made by prisoners at Lotus Glen Correctional Centre, and the van was fitted out by the Marlin Coast Men’s Shed.

Cairns Regional Council, Bluewater Development, Member for Barron River Craig Crawford, and various other anonymous donors also donated towards the relocation costs.

Ms Ager also thanked Division Nine Councillor Brett Olds and Federal Member Warren Entch who assisted the project in many ways including appearing as key witnesses for The Agile Project in court.

Veterinarians from My Pet Hub in Brinsmead and Balaclava Vets in Redlynch will be voluntarily assisting the TAP team in the relocation.

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