Dibbler homecoming: rare marsupial released on island haven

By AG STAFF October 19, 2022
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Twenty-eight dibblers have been released onto Dirk Hartog Island, 730km north of Perth. The tiny marsupial – one of Australia’s rarest – once thrived on the island, until feral animals wiped them out.

The 16 males and 12 females travelled 800km by road, plane and helicopter. They are the fourth group of dibblers to be released on the island since 2019. Another 16 will join them next month, boosting the island’s dibbler population to 137.

The Dirk Hartog marsupial release is part of the Return to 1616 project, which successfully eradicated the feral cat, sheep and goat populations on the island. Now predator-free, the island is a success for the conservation program, which has reintroduced rufous hare-wallabies, banded hare-wallabies, Shark Bay bandicoots, Shark Bay mice, greater stick-nests rats and western grass wrens.

A hand holding a dibbler on Dirk Hartog Island.
Dibbler release on Dirk Hartog island, WA. Image credit: Shem Bisluk

Native to the southwestern corner of Australia, the dibbler was feared to be extinct for several decades until a handful were rediscovered near Albany in 1967. Slightly larger than a house mouse, the carnivorous marsupial has a long, pointed snout and a distinct white ring around their eyes.

Researchers from Perth Zoo have been successfully breeding dibblers since 1997, releasing them on Escape Island, Whiteman Park and Stirling Range National Park, Waychinicup National Park, Gunton Island and other locations.

Related: Meet the Dibbler, one of the world’s rarest mammals