Posted on 15/03/2016 by Phillip Island Nature Parks

Six Months on an Island Ark 

In only six months, endangered Eastern Barred Bandicoots have successfully established themselves on Churchill Island in Phillip Island Nature Parks, marking a positive start to an ambitious trial release designed to save the species from extinction in Victoria. 

Twenty Eastern Barred Bandicoots were released onto the 57-hectare island, which is free from foxes and feral cats. Sixteen were released in August 2015 with a further four female bandicoots released in October. The animals came from the Mount Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre and the Zoos Victoria captive breeding program. 

Churchill Island is the only site where breeding Eastern Barred Bandicoots, considered extinct in the wild since 2010, have been released beyond their known historic range and the release is being closely monitored by Phillip Island Nature Parks’ research staff. 

“We are encouraged as the population continues to do really well. In the latest round of monitoring, we had fifty-nine captures of twenty-three individual bandicoots over four nights,” explained Dr. Duncan Sutherland, Phillip Island Nature Parks’ Deputy Research Manager. 

“So far all the females we’ve captured have had young in their pouches and we’ve captured seven new bandicoots born on Churchill Island that have reached adulthood. Of these new animals, one was found to be carrying two pouch young of her own, so the third generation of Churchill Island bandicoots has arrived.” 

This breeding success and excellent health condition demonstrate that the island environment is suitable for Eastern Barred Bandicoots – one of the many factors being assessed during the first two years of the trial. Monitoring results on Churchill Island will also inform potential releases of Eastern Barred Bandicoots onto larger fox-free islands, such as Phillip Island and French Island, in the future. 

“This is an exciting step towards large, self-sustaining populations on islands where this species can be secure and flourish. It will demonstrate that we can save our threatened species like the Eastern Barred Bandicoot,” said Dr. Sutherland. 

The project is being managed by Phillip Island Nature Parks and supported by Zoos Victoria and the Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Team including members from Conservation Volunteers Australia, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Mt Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre, National Trust of Australia, Parks Victoria, the University of Melbourne and Tiverton Property Partnering.