Bandicoot born in Booderee National Park for the first time in a century

By Angela Heathcote 9 June 2017
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Researchers from the Australian National University were met with a surprise when, in attempting to locate a bandicoot that had lost its radio tracker, instead found a much younger addition to the National Park.

BOODEREE NATIONAL PARK has welcomed the discovery of the first young southern brown bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus obesulus) to be born in the area for a century.

The southern brown bandicoots had not been seen in the national park since the first world war, until bandicoots were reintroduced to the area last year in hope that the animal would breed quickly.

Recently, while out in the field the Australian National University (ANU) research team discovered a young female bandicoot.

“We’d been radio tracking the most recent animals that had been brought to Booderee. I had some traps set to catch an animal that had lost its radio tracker. Instead of catching the one that I was after, I caught a female bandicoot that had no identification so we knew it was a new animal,” said Chris MacGregor from the ANU, who manages a long-term research project at Booderee.

“I scanned this animal at least ten times just to make sure it was what I thought it was. I was amazed. I would estimate it at about 6 months old,” he told Australian Geographic

Booderee was first considered by the Parks Australia Program as an ideal site for re-population as the land is largely free of feral predators such as the red fox, which threaten the bandicoots’ existence.

This translocation program introduced six females and five males to Booderee last year, while another 12 have recently been translocated from State Forests near Eden New South Wales to the national park.

“They have to avoid predators such as owls and snakes. On the mainland you also have issues with introduced cats and foxes,” said Chris. “At Booderee the park has done a great job of baiting foxes. The number of feral predators are kept really quite low.”

Nick Dexter, a senior project officer from Parks Australia said the discovery of the young bandicoot demonstrates that the translocation last year has the potential to bolster population numbers.

“This is great news because it shows the population we translocated last year is not only surviving, but may be growing,” said Nick. “We’re only halfway through the project but signs are good that we are bringing the southern brown bandicoot back to Booderee.”

The bandicoots have the second shortest gestation period of any mammal, lasting only 12 days from conception to birth.

Nick says that the bandicoots were critical to the national park’s ecosystem.

“Intensive pest control measures over many years have led to suitable conditions for the bandicoots’ return,” Dexter said, adding, “Small mammals play an important role in our ecosystems and the release of these bandicoots into areas where they’ve been locally extinct for almost 100 years helps restore ecological balance to the national park.”

The southern brown bandicoot has been listed as endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act since 2001.

“The combined effect of predation and habitat fragmentation is the main threat to the population as a whole. They’ve always been known to exist along the east coast of Australia but of course the east coast is a place where humans love to live. It’s the most productive land,” Chris said.