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31 May 2017 Testing the potential for supplementary water to support the recovery and reintroduction of the black-footed rock-wallaby
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Abstract

Context. Supplementary resource provision is increasingly used by conservation managers to manipulate habitat conditions that limit population growth of threatened species. These methods are popular in reintroduction programs because they can assist released individuals to adapt to novel environments. In situ management and reintroductions are being used to recover warru (black-footed rock-wallaby, Petrogale lateralis MacDonnell Ranges race) on the arid Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands of South Australia. Direct predation by introduced predators is thought to be the main cause of population decline, but indirect predation effects reducing access to water resources has also been proposed as a limiting factor.

Aims. To determine whether warru would use supplementary water and so provide a tool to alleviate resource pressure for in situ (wild) and reintroduced warru populations.

Methods. We provided supplementary water to a wild and reintroduced warru population across 12 months. Drinking rates were calculated by monitoring water points with camera traps and modelled against plant moisture content and total rainfall. We also examined whether number of visits to water points by warru predators and competitors was significantly different to control points (no water present).

Key results. Wild and reintroduced warru used water points within 0–10 days of installation. No significant increase in visits by predators or competitors was observed at water points. Drinking rates were significantly higher during dry winter months (March–October) for both wild and re-introduced populations.

Conclusions. Supplementary water is readily utilised by warru. Water could be provided in this manner to warru populations where predators are present, particularly during drier months (generally March–October on the APY Lands), periods of drought or after fire, when food resources will have a lower water content and/or be less abundant. This may increase breeding rates and recruitment of young, and improve the probability of persistence for populations of this threatened species, and should be further investigated.

Implications. Supplementary water provision may be a useful tool to increase population growth rates for threatened mammalian herbivores in arid habitats. Experimental trials of the uptake of supplementary water and effects on population dynamics will provide important data for implementing adaptive management frameworks for conservation.

© CSIRO 2017
Rebecca West, Matthew J. Ward, Wendy K. Foster, and David A. Taggart "Testing the potential for supplementary water to support the recovery and reintroduction of the black-footed rock-wallaby," Wildlife Research 44(3), 269-279, (31 May 2017). https://doi.org/10.1071/WR16181
Received: 10 October 2016; Accepted: 1 April 2017; Published: 31 May 2017
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