Warru-n't you a cutie? Monarto Zoo's conservation efforts praised

When you're the federal Environment Minister, cuddling a baby warru is one of the perks of the job.

Sussan Ley visited Monarto Zoo last Wednesday to learn more about its conservation successes, including with the black-flanked rock wallaby, often known by its Indigenous name; cockatoos; and lions.

Since 2006, the zoo has collaborated with traditional owners in South Australia's far north on a warru breeding program, and began returning joeys to a fenced area in their homelands in 2017.

At one point fewer than 200 individuals had remained in the wild.

More recently, the zoo has planted 32 hectares of habitat for the endangered red-tailed black cockatoo, with hopes that giving the birds somewhere to feed and nest will help their population increase.

The species is one of 20 Australian birds targeted for urgent attention by 2020 in a national threatened species strategy.

Fewer than 1400 individuals remain in the wild.

Conservation manager Liberty Olds said the planting of 10,000 trees over the past year - as part of a partnership between land managers, Birdlife Australia, Trees for Life and the zoo's Aboriginal Learning on Country team - would make a difference.

"South-eastern red-tailed black cockatoos are notoriously picky eaters, and feed only on native stringybark and buloke trees," she said.

"Sadly, these vital feed trees have been extensively cleared, with only three per cent of buloke remaining in the cockatoos' native South East of South Australia and south-west of Victoria.

"Restoring these food sources for the species will be a huge help."

The zoo also recently farewelled three of its lionesses, who have moved to Taronga Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo, New South Wales.

The departure of Kiamba, Tiombe and Zalika will create space for the next generation of lions at Monarto.

Three male lions arrived in December, and will soon be allowed to mingle with the rest of the pride.

Keeper Jaimee Button said the boys had shown "very positive breeding behaviours".

Ms Ley said the federal government was proud to work with Zoos SA on conservation.

"Working with key partners like Monarto Zoo plays a critical role in our threatened species strategy, and I applaud the progress they are making in a number of areas," Ms Ley said.

Threatened Species Commissioner Sally Box and Member for Barker Tony Pasin accompanied Ms Ley on the tour.

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