Rare video of potoroo mother captured

By Lauren Cella 29 November 2013
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Rare footage of a mother potoroo tending to her joey has “gobsmacked” scientists.

Video courtesy NSW Office of Environment and Heritage

WILDLIFE TRACKING CAMERAS have captured images of a rare, female long-nosed potoroo (Potorous tridactylus) tending to her pouch joey.

The movement-sensitive camera, located on the shoreline of Wonboyn Lake in the Nadgee Nature Reserve, NSW, recorded more than 300 images which have been put together to create a one minute video.

Dr Andrew Claridge from the NSW Wildlife Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) says he was “gobsmacked” when he saw the footage.

“You would never witness a mother long-nosed potoroo grooming its young in the wild – they are just so secretive and otherwise are hidden away in dense vegetation. The feedback I got from peers when I sent the draft movie around for comment was overwhelming – grown men (and women) do cry,” he says.

Catching the long-nosed potoroo

The camera that captured the images was set up this year from early April through early May and is part of a long-term wildlife monitoring program. The cameras are usually set up for a period of one month and during that time are working all day and night says Andrew.

“A bait attractant is used on first deployment to help increase the detection rate of animals like potoroos,” says Andrew. “In the present case it was a combination of peanut butter, rolled oats and black truffle oil – the French Anzac!”

A day in the life of a long-nose potoroo

The long-nosed potoroo is only found on the south-eastern coast of Australia from Queensland down to Tasmania and some areas of western Victoria. It inhabits coastal heaths, and dry to wet sclerophyll forests which have hard leaves that grow close to the stem like eucalyptus.

It is primarily a nocturnal animal and underground-fruiting fungi are a major part of its diet. This truffle-based diet plays an important role in the long-nosed potoroos habitat.

Dr Randy Rose from the University of Tasmania says that the special thing about them is that “when they poo it helps with the growth of the eucalyptus.”

Threats to the long-nosed potoroo

Currently, the long-nosed potoroo is facing a number of threats with the most prominent being introduced predators. The main concern, Andrew says is “without a shadow of a doubt predation by the introduced red fox and feral cat”. Removal of dense understorey vegetation is also a problem, he adds, as is simplification of native vegetation through too frequent burning.”

However, conservationists are putting into place strategies to protect the endanered potoroo. In NSW there is extensive fox and feral cat control, and fire management programs to ensure vegetation cover is maintained.

“Elsewhere in NSW, revegetation programs are in place trying to recreate and/or link dense patches of vegetation for the species,” Andrew says.

Counting long-nosed potoroos

While the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment does not class the long-nosed potoroo as vulnerable in Tasmania, in other areas of Australia they are considered vulnerable or endangered. However, due to its secretive nature and the logistical demands of collating a population count nobody is sure how many are in the wild.

“Nevertheless,” Andrew says, “the species is an endangered species by virtue of the loss of habitat in coastal environs in the past, and the significant risk of ongoing predation from foxes and feral cats.

Capturing other wildlife at Nadgee Nature Reserve

While the images captured of the long-nosed potoroo and her joey have caused much excitement in the conservation community it is not the only significant find.

“Other threatened species also caught on camera…include the southern brown bandicoot, eastern pygmy possum, white-footed dunnart, spotted-tailed quoll, eastern bristlebird, and the feathertail glider,” Andrew says.

“In essence the movie is a strong reminder of why most of us are passionate about conservation – these animals are very special and deserve to be conserved to the fullest extent possible.”

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