Work experience with rock wallabies
Alexandra Boileau is just a regular Adelaide schoolgirl... until term holidays roll around, that is. When school's out, so is she - tracking rock wallabies through the Victorian wilderness with the Department of Sustainability and Environment.
Currently completing her Year 11 studies, Alexandra is passionate about animals and environmental conservation and hopes to eventually pursue a career in the area. So, what did she do on her holidays?
What work have you done with rock wallabies? What's involved?
I have been involved with work relating to the re-introduction of brush-tail rock wallabies into the Grampians National Park area, in an effort to repopulate the area.
It is an intense, exhausting experience that is so rewarding at the same time. While there I have been searching for new colonies, trapping re-introduced animals to perform health checks and for pouch young, and the re-introduction of new animals.
How did you get into this area of work?
I first discovered this type of work through the Adelaide Zoo, where I was introduced to Dr David Taggart, Principal Scientist of the Zoo and founder of Conservation Ark. It was through meeting David that I was offered the opportunity to attend a field trip at Swan Reach researching the southern hairy-nosed wombats.
It was after this trip that I was told about the work he had been doing in the Grampians with the brush-tails and invited me along to future field trips.
What are rock wallabies, for those who don't know? How many are currently in the wild? Are they endangered??
Brush-tail rock wallabies are a small-to-medium sized macropod that are 60-65cm tall. They are generally brown in colour, while their long bushy tail is their distinguishing feature.
Their heavily padded feet allow them to be agile on the steep, rocky terrain in which they live. Brush-tails were once common along most of the east coast, and are now classified in Victoria as critically endangered, and the state’s most endangered species.
Hunting pressures in the 1900s had reduced their numbers and foxes finished them off by 1999, with only one other colony in Victoria (East Gippsland) and a couple in captivity.
Why are you passionate about this subject in particular?
I have always shared a love for animals from a young age, growing up with horses and first becoming interested in Veterinary Science. It was then through the field trips and working one-on-one with the animals we are saving that I realised that I am making a positive impact on the world and making a difference, and that every animal counts.
It is also up to our generation to carry on and extend the work preserving these unique animals and guaranteeing their future.
What is the best thing about getting involved in this kind of work? Do you think other younger people would enjoy it?
The best thing about this kind of work is the feeling of self-satisfaction I gained from doing the work and being involved, feeling like I was making a difference and giving back in some way.
I think that anyone else who enjoys being outdoors and has a passion for animals would love the experience. It is unlike anything I have ever experienced. I didn't know what to expect at first, but it was so more than I anticipated.
Unfortunately, it is something that is difficult to get involved in unless you know people. I know that the people involved go above and beyond to do whatever they can to help students who they see are keen, enthusiastic and passionate - to help them achieve and to mentor them.
What have you learned?
I have learnt a range of practical skills involved with working in the field including geography related skills such as radio tracking, searching for new colonies, trapping and animal handling, as well as working alongside vets, assisting with anaesthetics, health checks and measurements.
Other than these practical aspects, I have also learnt more about the many number of native species in Australia and threats that face them, therefore the importance of our role in their long term survival.
Do you think most young Australians know enough about their native animals?
No. If you asked someone to name 15 Australian mammals, most would struggle even though there are over a hundred. People my age need to learn more and understand the fauna in our own back yard.
What do you want to do in the future, relating to animal conservation and the environment?
After finishing school, I hope to travel to South Africa to volunteer for a few months and then study vet science at uni. I haven't really planned anything in particular for the future, I hope to just wait and see where opportunities take me, whether that is interstate or overseas.
You can see Alexandra and the wallabies for yourself by checking out Alexandra's rock wallaby video on YouTube. (new window). Check out our Articles archive for more articles about the Environment and Work & study. For more about work experience, check out our Volunteering and work experience pages.