Kangaroo Island dunnarts have been captured on camera, giving hope for their survival

Conservationists were fearful for the dunnarts’ future following the devastating 2019/2020 fires, but there may still be a chance.
By Australian Geographic April 21, 2020 Reading Time: 2 Minutes

THE CRITICALLY ENDANGERED Kangaroo Island dunnart, feared extinct following Australia’s 2019/2020 bushfire catastrophe, have been discovered in a few small pockets on their island home.

In January, conservationists working to save the dunnart said the loss of even 20 dunnarts would do significant harm to their population and early aerial images of the fires showed significant damage to key habitat areas. 

Miraculously, sensor cameras funded by the WWF and deployed by Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife have spotted the tiny mouse-like creature at three locations on a 550-acre private property in the Island’s north-west. 

“These images prove that this property is supporting a dunnart population,” says Heidi Groffen, an ecologist with the Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife.

“It’s exciting and a credit to farm fire units and firefighters that this critical habitat escaped the flames, as surrounding properties to the south, east and west were badly burnt.”

One of the dunnarts captured on the sensor cameras. (Image credit: Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife)

WWF-Australia’s Head of Healthy Land and Seascapes Darren Glover says the species won’t survive without a helping hand. “That’s why it’s so important to monitor and manage threats in these few sites that are providing a refuge for the remaining dunnarts.”

According to Darren, the biggest threat to the remaining dunnarts is feral cats, which were also captured on the sensor cameras. 

“When a bushfire rips through an area it can destroy the understorey and all the little hiding places that species like the dunnart rely on,” Darren says. “This makes the surviving animals particularly vulnerable to feral cats that are on the move and looking for new hunting grounds,”

In addition to the sensor cameras, conservationists have also installed shelter tunnels for the dunnarts. “The tunnels are providing a little extra protection while the burnt bushland regenerates,” Heidi says. 

“The dunnarts can forage at night, take shelter during the day and escape from feral cats and other predators like raptors and goannas.”

It may be a bumpy road ahead for the adorable marsupial, but Heidi says working with landholders to conserve what’s left of the dunnarts habitat is critical. “We don’t want any more species to become extinct on our watch.”