Posted on 16/05/2020 by Phillip Island Nature Parks
BANDICOOTS BACK FROM THE BRINK OF EXTINCTION
Victoria’s population of endangered Eastern barred bandicoots has passed a significant milestone and scientists have now declared they are on the way back from the brink of extinction. Researchers at Phillip Island Nature Parks stated that the population of 67 bandicoots released on the Island in 2017 has grown to about 300 animals.
While Phillip Island Nature Parks’ visitor attractions are currently closed to help slow the spread of coronavirus, the organisation continues to implement its on-ground conservation and research activities, including significant work to stop the impact of feral cats, which are a threat to bandicoots, penguins and shearwater birds.
The recent results of trap-and-release of microchipped marsupials also revealed the animals have spread at least 4km from their original transplanted home in the wild, including across farmland.
Phillip Island Nature Parks’ Deputy Director of Research Dr Duncan Sutherland said the project to establish bandicoots on Phillip Island has now met the key criteria of success after two and a half years.
“Successful establishment on Phillip Island is a huge step towards securing this species from extinction,’’ Dr Sutherland said. “We’re successfully reversing the decline.’’
The success of the program means that the Eastern barred bandicoots’ listing on the threatened species list could be reviewed in the future, Dr Sutherland said. The Eastern barred bandicoots were wiped out in Victoria by foxes and habitat loss and only existed in sanctuaries on the mainland since 1991.
In collaboration with the Eastern barred bandicoot (EBB) Recovery Team, a trial release of 20 bandicoots was established on nearby Churchill Island in 2015. Then in 2017, 67 eastern barred bandicoots were relocated onto Phillip Island, which was declared fox-free earlier that same year.
The release was significant because while there are no foxes on Phillip Island, the animals for the first time had to contend with feral cats. Last year bandicoots were also released on French Island but it is too early to say if that program has been a success.
Eastern barred bandicoots live for up to three years in the wild, breeding from 3-4 months and have up to five litters of 1-3 young a year.
The EBB Recovery Team includes representatives from: 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.