Precious eight born at Werribee Open Range Zoo
Eight of the rarest animals in the world are taking their first tiny footsteps at Werribee Open Range Zoo, marking a significant milestone in threatened species conservation.
The fluffy, golden-haired critically endangered Plains-wanderer chicks each weigh between just four to five grams and are being carefully monitored day and night in the Zoo’s threatened species facility.
Plains-wanderers are an Australian native species, lesser known than the widely identified koala, platypus, echidna, wombat or kangaroo, however are equally, if not even more, precious with fewer than 1000 estimated to be living in the wild.
Werribee Open Range Zoo Natives Coordinator Jacinda Goodwin said the extremely rare and charming little chicks are thriving in the Zoo’s conservation facility while being closely observed by Threatened Species keepers working to save the species from extinction.
“They are just adorable and have so much charisma,” Ms Goodwin said. “One of my favourite things to do as a keeper is to watch their behaviours and see them all run, huddle and tuck underneath their dad’s chest feathers to keep warm during the colder weather.”
The extremely rare and charming Plains-wanderer chicks are thriving in the Zoo’s conservation facility while being closely observed by Threatened Species keepers working to save the species from extinction.
The Plains-wanderer was once widespread throughout the grasslands of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Extensive habitat destruction, impacts from over grazing, introduced predators, and extreme weather events resulted in a dramatic decline (>85%) of the species’ population throughout the past 20 years, driving them to the brink of extinction. Today, they live in two remaining strongholds in Victoria’s Northern Plains and the New South Wales Riverina.
Ms Goodwin said zoo breeding programs and wild release trials are two of many important conservation techniques helping to re-establish a self-sufficient and thriving wild Plains-wanderer population.
“We have an insurance population of Plains-wanderers at Werribee Open Range Zoo, and we work with other wildlife organisations around Australia to help maintain genetic diversity for the species,” Ms Goodwin said. “Some of these birds are released into the wild as part of ongoing release trials that aim to bolster wild populations.”
In evolutionary terms, Plains-wanderers are genetically distinct from any other species on the planet and are the last family on their evolutionary line. Werribee Open Range Zoo has successfully bred a total of 36 Plains-wanderers since the Zoo’s threatened species facility opened in 2017, and it is hoped additional chicks will be born during this 2022-23 breeding season.
The Plains-wanderer is one of 27 Australian priority threatened species that Zoos Victoria is committed to saving from extinction. To learn more about the species and how to support conservation efforts, visit zoo.org.au.
Zoos Victoria and Werribee Open Range Zoo visitors are reminded that all tickets must be pre-booked online at zoo.org.au. Zoos Victoria Members no longer need to book but are required to scan their Membership card for entry.
Zoos Victoria would like to thank and acknowledge funding partners; the Victorian Government, the Limb Family Foundation, Andy McGillivray and Judy McGillivray and the Purryburry Trust.