Rambo’s rampage is over: floods, not people, lead to fox’s downfall

The fox Rambo is dead and a 5,800-acre fenced-off sanctuary is now officially safe for reintroduced native animals, but it wasn’t human efforts that finally put an end to the wild predator’s rampage.

The Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) says it devoted a total of 10,400 nights trying to capture Rambo, 73 nights trying to shoot him, 55 days using scent-sniffing dogs to find him and 3,500 decoys trying to to poison him, all without joy.

Rambo the fox
The Most Wanted Pilliga, a red fox nicknamed Rambo, was last seen on October 9, 2022, walking away from a camera trap. He is believed to have met his fate during one of two flood events in October 2022

However, it appears that Rambo eventually succumbed to the force of nature and may have been drowned in or driven out by one of last year’s major floods, according to the AWC, who are now certain the elusive fox is gone forever.

Rambo used to be a regular feature on wildlife cams in the sanctuary in the Pilliga region of NSW and has not been seen in the spotlight since 9 October 2022.

Since then, according to the AWC, not a single piece of evidence of its existence has been found.

“Adios Rambo!” said Wayne Sparrow, AWC operations manager in the Pilliga, who championed the mammoth hunt for the wily predator.

“The lack of evidence is evidence in itself – we are so confident that the fox is gone that we even held an ‘extermination party’.

“We have the result we need and we can proceed with the reintroduction of new species and the whole project will move forward.

“I am incredibly proud of everyone who has supported me through these many sleepless nights and stressful days. My work here is done – it’s up to the science team,” he joked.

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AWC with the National Parks and Wildlife Service erected the Pilliga Fence for the reintroduction of six locally extinct species in July 2018.

Big Bilby
An endangered Large Bilby released into the fenced off predator proof area in Pilliga MP. Photo: Brad Leue/Australian Wildlife Conservancy

Due to the presence of rambo, only three of the species have been reintroduced in a smaller 680-hectare breeding area within the larger fence.

These were the Big Bilby (2018), the Bridled Nailtail Wallaby (2019), and the Brushtail Bettong (2022).

“The timing is perfect,” said Dr. Vicki Stokes, Senior Wildlife Ecologist at AWC.

“Bilbies and the bridled nailtail wallabies are ready to move into the larger area. Good conditions in the forest in recent years have meant that both populations are doing exceptionally well and it is good to take them to the wider area to help them thrive.

“We are also very excited to be able to proceed with reintroductions and we will be doing so very soon.

“We hope to release the endangered flatland mouse before June and the western bandicoot in September.”

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