Wildlife and Habitat Recovery

Wildlife and Habitat Recovery

Recovery Programs are state or nation-wide strategies that aim to stop the decline and support the recovery of species under threat. These programs are collaborative efforts that identify the steps that need to be taken to ensure species’ long-term viability, and determine the most appropriate parties to undertake them.

Taronga currently directly contributes to 14 Recovery Programs, undertaking zoo-based breeding, developing husbandry protocols, providing staff expertise and, for some species, releasing animals back into the wild.

Current programs

Bellinger River Turtle

The Bellinger River Turtle is restricted to the Bellinger River catchment in northern NSW. In February 2015, a catastrophic mortality event occurred across the entire range of the wild population with an estimated 90% of the population being wiped out. A small insurance population were collected from upstream reaches of the catchment and, after completing quarantine, were transferred to Taronga Zoo in early 2016.

To date Taronga has had two successful years of breeding, with 53 turtles hatched. This is significant as it is the first time that the species has reproduced outside of their native habitat. The health of the turtles is closely monitored by Taronga keeping staff, and Taronga’s Australian Registry of Wildlife Health alongside partners are investigating the novel virus that caused the turtle's near extinction in the hope of future release back into the wild.

Blue-tailed Skink

Blue-tailed Skink numbers in the wild have fallen significantly over the past 30 years. Taronga and Parks Australia have worked together since 2011 to save this species, establishing successful breeding populations of Blue-tailed Skink at both Taronga Zoo and on its native Christmas Island, with the goal of reintroduction to the wild.

Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby

Taronga manages and coordinates the Australian Species Management Program for the Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby. Today only about 15,000 to 30,000 of these wallabies are thought to remain, and they continue to face a number of threats, including predation by foxes and competition for food resources, that drive the decline of this species.  
In partnership with the Office of Environment and Heritage, Taronga and other zoos participating in this program are tasked with providing a genetically healthy population of animals bred in human care that are suitable for release to the wild, as part of the reintroduction program. Taronga staff are also involved in the population and health monitoring project around Jenolan Caves, where the population has continued to grow since Taronga’s involvement began in 2000.

Fijian Crested Iguana

Taronga's Terrestrial Ecologist is the author of the Fijian Crested Iguana IUCN Recovery Plan, and has 20 years’ experience in the breeding of this and other reptile species. Taronga’s support for the Fijian Crested Iguana’s survival has included developing a pest eradication program on its native Monuriki Island and, devising the re-introduction program for iguanas captive bred in Fiji, and scientific monitoring to assess reintroduction survival rates.

Taronga is one of seven Australian Zoo and Aquarium Association institutions that holds Fijian Crested Iguanas as part of a Population Management Program, with the intended purpose to be able to reintroduce back to the wild should a catastrophic event occur to the wild population in Fiji.

Greater Bilby

The Greater Bilby is an iconic threatened marsupial that used to live in much of mainland Australia. There may now be less than 1,000 of these animals left in the wild. Taronga's mission is to return Greater Bilby to the wild in our home state. Both Zoos have cared for and bred Bilby since the 1980’s, and are now expanding this program to the Sanctuary, from which Taronga-bred Bilbies will be released into the Sturt National Park.
The objective for the recovery program is to improve (or at least maintain) the conservation status of the Greater Bilby, and to achieve an accurate assessment of distribution, trends in occurrence and successfully reduce the impacts of key threatening processes.

Lister's Gecko

Lister's Gecko was thought to be extinct for 20 years until it was rediscovered in 2009. Since then, Taronga and Parks Australia have led the way in its recovery, establishing an insurance breeding population in Sydney and working on its native Christmas Island to better understand threats in the wild.

Little Penguin

The Little Penguin colony in North Sydney Harbour is the only known breeding group on the NSW mainland. Key threats include loss of suitable habitat for breeding, nesting and moulting due to human development and activity in the areas.
Taronga Zoo has been a key contributor to the recovery plan, by maintaining and enhancing the population through research, education, and protection of the colony and its habitat and by increasing community awareness and involvement. Taronga Wildlife Hospital also plays a vital role in the rehabilitation and release of injured Little Penguins, the majority victims of cat, dog and fox attacks.

Lord Howe Island Rodent Eradication Project

Taronga Zoo are proud to have been a strategic partner in the delivery of the Lord Howe Island (LHI) Rodent Eradication Project. This project, established by the Lord Howe Island board and funded by the NSW and Federal Government, was the largest attempt undertaken to completely eradicate rodents from a permanently populated island.


Northern Corroboree Frog

In the 1990s, Northern Corroboree Frog populations became so precarious that a National Recovery Plan was initiated. It is still one of Australia’s most threatened species, and Taronga has been working to support the genetically-distinct Northern Brindabella population since 2010.
Taronga has undertaken an annual release of eggs and tadpoles at two sites within Brindabella National Park since 2010 and in December 2014 juveniles and adults were also released and  as of March 2018 a total of 1486 eggs/tadpoles and 320 frogs have been released. The team undertakes annual monitoring for survival and breeding; surveys in early 2018 revealed the best results yet, coinciding with the maturing and breeding of the juvenile males and females released in 2014.

Plains Wanderer

The Plains-wanderer is a unique and critically endangered Australian bird found on the semi-arid plains of New South Wales and Victoria. There are estimated to be 250 to 1000 birds remaining in the wild, a record low for the species. This species is managed as an Iconic Species under NSW Office of Environment and Heritage’s Saving our Species program.
Taronga leads the Captive Management Program for Plains-wanderer. In a first for zoos, Taronga successfully bred Plains-wanderer chicks, and the breeding program has been  extended to purpose-built breeding aviaries in the Sanctuary at Taronga Western Plains Zoo. The establishment of a captive population is considered a number one priority of the National Recovery Plan as a safeguard against further wild population declines.

Regent Honeyeater

Taronga has been actively participating in the Regent Honeyeater National Recovery Program since 1995 and the ‘breed for release’ is now a critical component for which Taronga has key responsibility. To date, over 260 Taronga-bred birds have been released and monitored in the Chiltern Mt Pilot National Park, Victoria; an impressive number considering the wild population is estimated at only 300-500 individuals.

The most recent release occurred in April 2017 and saw 101 birds being released. Key success indicators of the program are the sighting of birds released in 2015 together with the 2017-release birds. Further, zoo-bred birds were observed pairing and nesting with wild counterparts which is exactly what is needed to help the wild population recover. Taronga also works with its partner BirdLife to increase habitat in the Capertee Valley.

Southern Corroboree Frog

The Southern Corroboree Frog remains one of Australia’s most threatened species, with less than 50 mature individuals remaining in the wild at Kosciuszko National Park. It is one of Taronga’s native legacy species. Taronga is a major contributor to the National Recovery Program for this species and the most successful breeder of Southern Corroboree Frogs.
Since 2010, Taronga Zoo has been contributing to the reintroduction of this species to the wild through the release of eggs into artificial pools at four sites in Kosciuszko NP– a total of 4,387 eggs and 491 frogs since 2010. All known individuals in the wild now exist at our reintroduction sites, demonstrating Taronga’s critical role in preventing the extinction of this species.

Tasmanian Devil

Unique to Tasmania, The Tasmanian Devil populations have been severely reduced by Devil Facial Tumour Disease, with a state-wide wild population decline of 80 per cent compared to pre-disease counts. The species’ threat status was upgraded from ‘vulnerable’ to ‘endangered’ in 2007.
Together with other wildlife parks, both Taronga Zoo and Taronga Western Plains Zoo have dedicated facilities for the breeding and maintenance of disease-free and genetically viable populations of Tasmanian Devils for potential release back to Tasmania as required by the Recovery Team.

Yellow-spotted Bell Frog

The Yellow-spotted Bell Frog was rediscovered in 2009 in the NSW Southern Tablelands, after previously being thought to be extinct for 30 years. A small insurance population was established at Taronga Zoo from the collection of tadpoles and metamorph frogs.
In November 2017, Taronga achieved the first breeding of this species. The eggs and tadpoles were reared successfully, resulting in the release of 200 juvenile frogs in March 2018 to a site in very close proximity to where the rediscovered population was found. Further releases are planned for 20218 at a second site in an effort to re-establish populations of this species in the wild.