Mt Wilson man saving the Parma wallaby from extinction

For nearly fifty years Peter Pigott has been building up the population of the endangered Parma wallaby on a four hectare reserve at Mt Wilson.

Yengo Reserve is now home to 180 of the macropods, which are listed as a vulnerable species. Some go to Taronga Zoo for breeding and to the National Parks and Wildlife Service for controlled release programs.

To feed such a large number of wallabies in the grassy, woodland reserve, Mr Pigott provides an evening meal of carrots, sweet potatoes and certified roo food, which costs him around $20,000 a year. He estimates he goes through 10kg of carrots and 10kg of sweet potato every day, and 4.5 tonnes of roo pellets a year.

The 84-year-old retired businessman has approached Blue Mountains council over many years to gain an exemption for the $4000 he pays in rates for the reserve every year, but was knocked back.

He worries what will happen to the animals when he dies.

"When I die I would like to see it go on, or continue somewhere else," Mr Pigott said.

Ward 1 councillor Kerry Brown has visited Yengo Reserve over many years and thinks Mr Pigott could be exempt from rates if the reserve is granted conservation status from the state government's Biodiversity Conservation Trust.

She will bring an urgency motion to the November 24 council meeting asking that council provides a letter of support to Mr Pigott for his application to the Biodiversity Conservation Trust to establish a conservation agreement.

"I am confident that Yengo Reserve will easily qualify for the agreement. Pete has strong commendations from National Parks and Taronga Park, as well as the living evidence of his healthy wallabies and years of research data and participation in breeding and captive release programs," Cr Brown said.

Mr Pigott is hopeful this will settle the rates issue once and for all.

"I have spent more than $1 million on the project. I don't think the council will be swamped with conservation agreement exemptions. It costs a lot of money to run a successful threatened species reserve," he said.

Mr Pigott first became interested in this small, shy wallaby with it's white belly fur that stands not even 35cm high, in the late 1960s when he was chair of the project committee of the National Parks and Wildlife Service Foundation.

Parma wallabies, thought extinct, had just been discovered on Kawau Island in New Zealand, originally taken there as novelties from Australia in the 1860s, and later considered pests.

Mr Pigott personally funded the transportation of 38 Parma Wallabies to Australia, and bought land near his home in Mt Wilson to use as a reserve for the wallabies.

"If I didn't do that whey would all be extinct because they would have been killed by the New Zealand government," Mr Pigott said.

Today the Parma wallaby is still under threat.

"The biggest problem is that these small wallabies are easy prey to foxes and cats. Australia has millions of feral predators. That's why we had to build a three-metre fence around the reserve and electrify it," Mr Pigott said.

During last summer's bushfires, the reserve was hit by ember attack, requiring multiple fence posts to be replaced at a cost of $2000.

"But we didn't lose one wallaby," Mr Pigott said.

And with the UN predicting that one million species are at risk of extinction in coming decades, Mr Pigott says it's a "slippery slope to extinction".

"If every person could afford to buy 10 acres of land and save one species it would be fantastic," he said.

"I'm here and I'm doing this with great pleasure."

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