Posted on 23/10/2017 by Phillip Island Nature Parks

Endangered Bandicoots call Phillip Island home

Sunset over Phillip Island on Friday brought so much more than the usual nightly arrival of the famous little penguins. It also heralded the release of a small population of the critically endangered Eastern Barred Bandicoot onto the Summerland Peninsula as part of continuing efforts to save this unique marsupial from extinction in the wild.

Researchers from Phillip Island Nature Parks, Zoos Victoria and the Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Team released a total of 44 individuals onto the Summerland Peninsula, located at the western tip of Phillip Island. This area is well known as the site of major conservation activities over several years as it was rehabilitated from a former housing estate to a natural environment which is now home to a thriving colony of little penguins, migratory short-tailed shearwaters and if this release proves successful, Eastern Barred Bandicoots (EBBs).

“EBBs have been wiped out on the mainland by foxes and habitat loss,” said Phillip Island Nature Parks’ CEO Catherine Basterfield as she addressed participants attending the pre-release launch. “Now that Phillip Island has been declared fox-free, we can give this marsupial its best chance of survival by releasing it here.”

“The release of endangered species has been identified as a desired action throughout the Nature Parks’ strategic plans, and is in line with our commitment to an increase in investment to develop a Threatened Species Conservation Program.”

A trial release of 20 EBBs was conducted on Churchill Island in 2015 to evaluate the suitability of local conditions and to demonstrate to the community what they might expect from an EBB release. This population increased to approximately 120 individuals in 2 years and has stabilised around this number.

“The trial release on Churchill Island demonstrated that EBBs can successfully establish in island environments and have positive impacts such as reduced soil compaction, and improved nutrient and water infiltration, with no observed negative effects, and has given us the confidence to release them on Phillip Island,” said Richard Hill, Chair of the EBB Recovery Team.

As the skies began to darken on Friday evening, the assembled group moved out to a number of strategic locations across the peninsula to perform the releases by torchlight and allow the EBBs who only come out at night, to settle into their new homes.

“After 26 years managing the captive breeding program, we are hopeful the release of EBBs onto Phillip Island will boost the wild population beyond fenced sites across Victoria. Together with the passion and commitment of our partners we look forward to moving closer to our goal of recovering the mainland EBB,” said Dr Jenny Gray, CEO of Zoos Victoria.

The EBB Recovery Team includes representatives from (in alphabetical order): Conservation Volunteers Australia, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), Mt Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre, National Trust of Australia, Parks Victoria, Phillip Island Nature Parks, the University of Melbourne, Tiverton Property Partnering and Zoos Victoria.

Phillip Island Nature Parks acknowledges the generous funding support provided by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust for the EBB program, and from the Ian Potter Foundation and Penguin Foundation for the Fox Eradication Program which has made this release possible.