Small Team With Big Hearts Help Protect Endangered Species, You Can Help Too

By NTD Staff

It’s not pretty or comfortable work, or the kind of work you might ever imagine yourself doing. But somewhere on a remote island down under, a small and determined team of scientists – fearlessly accompanied by their eager troupe of helpers – are putting in the hard yards to create change.

For a moment, picture a world without trees, without birds or bees – where there are no frogs, no caterpillars, no fish in the sea. What would a world without furry-slippery-flippy things look like? For one… cute cat videos would be no more. And that would be a very sad day indeed.

Ali cradling a nailtail wallaby at Avocet reserve in Queensland, Australia. (Stef Cox/NTD)

At Wild Mob, one of Australia’s most innovative start-ups, they take this risk, and its solution, personally.

For one of Wild Mob’s scientists, Ali, the chance to cherish life itself naturally translates into appreciation in action. We got talking at one of their outback nurseries for the small, furry mammal known as the nailtail wallaby. This is where moms and bubs alike are protected from predators.

“The work we’re doing is saving a critically endangered species. How many people get to say that?

“We’re going to be one of a handful of people in Australia – in the world – who have held this species of wallaby.”

Here, in the outback town of Emerald, the Wild Mob team attempt to revive this dwindling population by enrolling keen volunteers to help out as ‘eco-adventurers’. These volunteers are driven by just as much appreciation as the scientists.

“It just tore at my heart … I’ve had a wallaby of my own in the past and I wanted to know what I could do to help,” said Sue, one of the volunteers on this project.

What, exactly, does this adventure entail?

Volunteers Cliff and Sue, measuring a captured nailtail wallaby for growth rate and health, at Avocet reserve in Queensland, Australia. (Stef Cox/NTD)

“Driving around yesterday at dusk, we saw a mom with a tiny bub at her foot. We’re hoping to catch her and see how her bub is going. It’ll be very exciting. It’s always exciting to see the new young ones hopping around,” said Ali.

Baby wallabies and their moms are captured in the middle of the night and monitored for health and reproduction rates; and then the babies are released into the larger reserve when they come of age.

It’s not just the wallabies, however, that experience a transformation here.

According to Sue, a retired American living in Australia, “The night we went out the first time…it was probably the most memorable night of my life.”

“We saw little baby wallabies that were only 1 kg; and we saw moms with babies in pouches. One was a little pinkie who had no fur yet! And then we got to see some of the males, the biggest of which was about 3 kg.

“By the end of that night we got to release that little guy into the wild. It was a really touching experience, seeing the whole process of all the stages of life, in one night. I really came back buzzed. It was worth every second,” Sue said.

Releasing a nailtail wallaby at Avocet reserve in Queensland, Australia. (Stef Cox/NTD)

And it’s not only these hopping herbivores’s cuteness that makes this so worthwhile. A palpable reverence for life in all it forms and for its own sake, abounds among staff and students.

Cliff, a veteran eco-volunteer and enthusiastic bird watcher, spoke about another Wild Mob trip he’d recently been on, “I got goose bumps when I saw the green parrot. You’re thinking, ‘Well, there’s only one hundred left…this is the last time people may see this.’ And a beautiful bird too, it was.”

From intrepid retirees with just the mud on their boots and the wide-open sky ahead, to school kids and professionals, everyone experiences a transformation.

Stef cuddling a nailtail wallaby at Avocet reserve in Queensland, Australia. (Stef Cox/NTD)

Wild Mob’s head scientist on the trip, Kerensa, has seen it all. “We had one volunteer on Goldsmith Island. She was a bloody brilliant example; she came along, and she was so nervous. She didn’t know what to expect.

“But by the end of it she was a bloody champion – she wanted to go into conservation. She was an accountant! You just see this change in people who come out and experience the bush and the beauty of it, and it changes them,” Kerensa said.

In which way does it change them?

We took the question back to the source: “When your heart’s in it, you don’t mind getting prickles in your shoes, that sort of thing. You don’t mind being out on a hot day. It’s worthwhile.” Cliff suggested.

“I personally felt very privileged,” said Sue, with a glint in her eyes.

To find out more, or to have an eco-adventure of your own, head over to: www.wildmob.org.au

By Stefania Cox

 

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