Page 5450 - Week 14 - Thursday, 30 November 2017

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Following a public consultation process, Tasmania formally adopted the Tasmanian devil as their emblem on 22 May 2015. The Tassie devil is the world’s largest surviving carnivorous mammal and is endangered within Tasmania, which is the only place it survives in the wild. Populations of the Tasmanian devil have been impacted over years by human activity, and now the aggressive devil facial tumour disease threatens the remaining population. The Tasmanian government noted in adopting the mammal as its emblem:

The Devil is recognised across the world as uniquely Tasmanian and choosing it as our State emblem will help to promote the State around the world as well as raising awareness of the difficult challenge the Devil faces in combating disease.

While the insurance population program has been a resounding success we must continue to do all we can to encourage support in the fight against disease and to secure its future in the wild.

These are just two examples of how adopting a mammal emblem can actually have a huge impact on conservation efforts.

Perhaps a greater concern than whether the ACT should adopt a mammal emblem is which mammal we should adopt. We have already heard a few ideas, so very clearly the debate is already underway on which mammal we should adopt as our emblem. I know that in this age of public polls we are all weary of the Boaty McBoatface saga and, perhaps of more relevance, the push to have the bin chicken recognised as bird of the year.

Let us consider which types of mammals might be suitable for our emblem. Before highlighting a few options, I note that this list is far from exhaustive. The 2015 ACT state of the environment report lists 47 mammals native to the ACT, all of which I am sure could be considered options for an emblem. But I will highlight a few options.

The Tasmanian or eastern bettong was once found in the ACT region. However, for over 100 years it has only been found in the eastern part of Tasmania. In 2011 the first bettongs arrived at Tidbinbilla as part of a collaborative effort to reintroduce them into the area. In 2012, eastern bettongs were reintroduced into Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary. Bettongs are an important part of the health of ecosystems. By eating underground fungi, they are able to disperse the spores and increase nutrient exchange between the soil and the plants.

Another one which we have already heard about and could consider is the southern brush-tailed rock wallaby. It is known to be very shy. It is estimated that there are fewer than 40 southern brush-tailed rock wallabies left in the wild in Australia. Tidbinbilla National Park currently has around 70 per cent of the captive breeding population in Australia. The breeding program has been successful, with captive-bred southern brush-tailed rock wallabies being reintroduced into the wild in Victoria as part of a national recovery breeding program.

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