A cunning fox who derailed a multi-million pound conservation plan has finally been outsmarted.
Rambo spent years roaming the Pilliga State Conservation Area in New South Wales, Australia.
By doing so, he had put an ambitious project to reintroduce six locally-extinct species at risk.
The area needed to be declared predator free before the likes of the Greater Bilby, Bridled Nailtail Wallaby and Brush-tailed Bettong could be reintroduced.
But after Rambo was caught on camera walking through a monitoring site, the priority became his eviction.
A four-and-half-year battle of hide and seek ensued with experts unable to track down the fox.
In total, 10,400 trap nights were undergone and teams spent 55 days with scent-tracing dogs to find the pesky animal.
But, still, Rambo could be located.
News came this week that he had finally been outfoxed, not by any human, but by Mother Nature.
Heavy flooding in the area is thought to have finally moved Rambo on from the area.
Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) confirmed his status as ‘no longer’.
‘Adios Rambo!’ said Wayne Sparrow, AWC operations manager in the Pilliga.
He added: ‘The lack of evidence is evidence in itself – we are so confident the fox is gone that we’ve even had an “Eradication Celebration”.
‘We’re all experiencing this unusual feeling of excitement, joy and disappointment because the team put much time and effort into this sizeable chase, only to have the fox leave on his own accord.
‘At the end of the day, we needed the fox gone, one way or another. We have the result we need, and we can move forward with reintroducing new species and the whole project will progress.
‘I’m incredibly proud of everyone who joined me on those many sleepless nights and stressful days. My work here is done – it’s over to the science team.’
AWC with NPWS constructed a fence in July 2018 for the reintroduction of six locally extinct species.
Due to Rambo’s presence, only three of the species were reintroduced within a smaller 680-hectare breeding area located within the larger fence. These were the Greater Bilby (2018), Bridled Nailtail Wallaby (2019) and Brush-tailed Bettong (2022).
In Rambo’s absence, AWC can confidently open the breeding area and move forward with further reintroductions.
‘The timing is perfect,’ said Dr Vicki Stokes, AWC Senior Wildlife Ecologist.
She added: ‘Bilbies and the Bridled Nailtail Wallabies are ready to move into the larger area.
‘Good conditions in the forest over the last few years have meant that both populations are doing exceptionally well and it’s good to get them out into the wider area so they can flourish.
‘We are also very excited to be able to move forward with reintroductions and we will be doing so very soon. We hope to release the vulnerable Plains Mouse before June and the Western Barred Bandicoot in September.’
Rambo’s wild-fox-chase was similar to the hunt for Juan Carrito, a recently departed bear who evaded capture in Italy.
He was once even banished from Roccaraso, but made a 100-mile trek back to his ‘hometown’ to thieve another day.
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