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Swamp wallabies of Munibung Hill

Swamp wallaby sightings at Munibung Hill have been anecdotal for some years. More recently these sightings have been confirmed in conversations with local residents, and images on our citizen science camera monitors. This is wonderful news and very exciting for rewilding of this bushland area. But where did they come from? 

Peter Vaughan has pondered this question and come up with his take on the history of: the Swamp Wallabies of Munibung Hill.  Peter writes …
In the 1980’s a group of Animal Liberationists took objection to the wildlife exhibits in Blackbutt Reserve. On two occasions they cut the fences and released the animals; a combination of Swamp Wallabies and Eastern Grey Kangaroos. These animals followed their instincts. The Swamp Wallabies went into the dense vegetation, not to be seen again, and the Grey Kangaroos looked for the open areas and were subsequently killed on Carnley Ave. In the 90’s a storm blew a tree down, destroying a fence with a similar result.
No one thought much about it, however once we turned over to the next decade, people started reporting Swamp Wallaby sightings in Blackbutt Reserve, and there were road killed Swamp Wallabies as far away as Hillsborough Rd. Evidence that they didn’t all die.
These days there are regular sightings of Swamp Wallabies in the bushland around Munibung Hill. I have a regeneration project in Cardiff South, and the Swamp Wallabies make it difficult for me as they eat many trees I plant out. You see, Swamp Wallabies are browsers, not grazers. They prefer the leaves of shrubs rather than grasses. So you won’t see them come out in the evening grazing on lawns, but they are solitary animals that thump away in the dense scrub. To survive, they need dense vegetation. In the Munibung area they will be found around dense tea tree scrub, around Gahnia swordgrass, and even Lantana helps them survive, as a short term solution only.
Interestingly, Swamp Wallabies have been classified as ecosystem engineers, as they are such effective browsers that they limit sapling regeneration. I can totally agree with that and I have used hundreds of tree guards to protect trees I plant out, not to mention the damage they do to my garden.
I am unsure of their distribution in the Newcastle / Lake Macquarie region, but they reached Cardiff South in the late 1990’s, so I expect they are in the Awabakal /Glenrock Reserve area by now. I don’t expect their population around Munibung Hill is high, and with threats such as dogs, cats, foxes and cars, they could easily become locally extinct. However, with bush regeneration, there is no doubt they will survive indefinitely, but this regeneration has to be extensive, so that even after fire events, there will always be refuges available.
These are exciting times with nature wanting to return to Munibung Hill. It will be great to see what the coming years bring.
Peter Vaughan – Chairperson of Blackbutt Advisory Committee in 1980’s and 90’s. Now living on a private conservation area in Cardiff South.

MMM … Issue 23, October 2021