Champion for wallaby species points the finger at government
IN MAY 2016, Tina Janssen wrote a letter to (then) Minister for National Parks, accusing the state government of incompetence in its handling of a threatened wallaby species.
Since then, she says nothing has changed.
Ms Janssen has managed a population of bridled nailtail wallabies at her Safe Haven animal shelter and captive breeding facility near Mt Larcom for the past 15 years.
She did not attend a recovery meeting organised by the Department of Environment and Science last week and is refusing to sign another captive breeding agreement with DES if it will not guarantee that wallabies released from her program will be properly managed.
The bridled nailtail wallaby, native to central Queensland, is a tiny wallaby weighing about 5kg and is listed as endangered at state and federal level.
Before European settlement it was common west of the Great Dividing Range as far south as Victoria. Now the only known wild population remains in Taunton National Park, near Dingo.
DES estimates the number of remaining bridled nailtails in captivity or in the wild at 1800.
Ms Janssen said the figure was more like 1430.
She said "repeated incompetent management decisions by government employees have directly contributed to the drastic decline of the species".
Ms Janssen said her organisation AACE was contacted by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (now DES) 15 years ago to assess the health of a captive population of nailtails at Gregory Mine, Emerald, which could no longer remain on the site.
Ms Janssen said EHP did not have the funds to rehabilitate and relocate the animals which were in poor health, therefore, AACE trapped 160 animals, rehabilitated them and set up enclosures for the wallabies at Safe Haven.
It cost the organisation about $250,000.
AACE retained a number of the wallabies and applied to EHP to conduct a captive breeding program as at least three other captive breeding programs for the wallaby were being shut down.
"AACE ... got nothing, nothing, nothing," she said.
It took five years for AACE to be granted permission to captively breed.
The delay from EHP "represented a huge loss of genetic potential in the population that could never be recovered," Ms Janssen said.
By that stage, 90 percent of the animals were outside breeding age.
A spokesperson for DES did not dispute Ms Janssen's claims, but said the department could not find any records of its interactions with AACE at the time of the application.
Ms Janssen has accused EHP of adopting "an anti-breeding philosophy..." despite the latest recovery plan in 2005, which lists one of the recovery criteria for the species as "maintaining and enhancing self-sustainable captive populations of bridled nailtail wallabies at appropriate institutions for translocations, sanctuary populations ..."
She said no new release sites had been set up for the nailtail in Queensland in the last 17 years.
DES declined to comment on why no new sites had been identified but has requested an independent review of the recovery program.
Ms Janssen said she was at the point of giving up if DES did not look at establishing more sites in Queensland for the wallabies to be released.