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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 10 Hansard (Thursday, 7 October 2021) . . Page.. 2849 ..

At Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, the ACT government undertakes captive breeding programs for three endangered species: the southern brush-tailed rock wallaby, the northern corroboree frog and the Canberra grassland earless dragon. The southern brush-tailed rock wallaby is the faunal emblem for the ACT, but the species has not been seen in the wild here since 1959. It is estimated that there are fewer than 100 individuals remaining in the wild nationally. The major threat to populations is predation from introduced predators. At Tidbinbilla, a captive breeding and insurance colony of southern brush-tailed rock wallabies is part of a collaborative effort with Victoria and New South Wales to ensure the species’ survival, the maintenance of genetic diversity and the production of animals for reintroduction.

Meanwhile, the continued success of a captive breeding program for the critically endangered northern corroboree frog at Tidbinbilla enabled the release in late 2020 of 540 young frogs into Namadgi National Park. This introduction of young frogs to enhance the viability of the wild population is a collaborative project between the ACT government and the Australian National University. The northern corroboree frog is at risk of extinction in the wild primarily because of the pathogen chytrid fungus. The innovative approach used in the reintroduction aims to enable the species to persist in the presence of the disease and to establish self-sustaining wild populations.

Another of our critically endangered species is the Canberra grassland earless dragon, which is a small reptile that is limited to fragments of habitat in the ACT and nearby New South Wales. Recent research has identified that the Canberra grassland earless dragon is one of Australia’s 20 reptile species likely to go extinct by 2040. Wild populations of Canberra grassland earless dragons are monitored in the ACT by the ACT government ecologists each summer. Capture rates of wild animals have declined substantially in recent years, with drought and urbanisation likely contributors to the decline. In response, the ACT government has committed over $2 million to saving this species. Large-scale habitat restoration and research programs are underway, and an insurance population of Canberra grassland earless dragons has been established at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.

As part of our efforts to save this species, the grassland earless dragon captive breeding facility was launched on 27 May 2021. Founding animals were bred by the Melbourne Zoo, supplemented by two animals taken from the wild. The ACT’s captive breeding program for this species will commence in spring this year and provide valuable animals for reintroduction and population supplementation programs.

Looking after the habitat of our threatened species is also critically important. The ACT is significant in having large intact grasslands and grassy woodlands, which provide habitat for a diversity of species. Since European settlement, our grasslands have come under increasing pressure from agricultural modification, urbanisation and a changing climate. Due to these changes, less than 10 per cent of the grasslands in south-eastern Australia now remain in high ecological condition. Natural temperate grasslands are considered to be one of the most threatened Australian ecosystems, and are listed in the ACT as endangered and listed nationally as critically endangered. As such, our native grasslands are a priority for protection and management.

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