While they’re still endangered, the future of these bandicoots is brighter than ever.
The Eastern Barred Bandicoot has been brought back from the brink of extinction, thanks to the efforts of the bandicoot recovery team. Earlier today, Lily D’Ambrosio, Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, announced that the species has been reclassified from extinct in the wild to endangered. This is a first in Australian history.
Eastern Barred Bandicoot
These nocturnal marsupials used to be widespread across the grasslands and woodlands of western Victoria and South Australia. However, habitat loss and hunting from foxes and cats led to a decrease in wild populations. Eventually, the last wild population of Eastern Barred Bandicoots was found near Hamilton, where in 1989, about 150 remained.
A recovery team was formed in 1988 to stop the extinction of these adorable marsupials. And now, years later, they’ve succeeded.
“This is a massive achievement by the Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Team and a massive win for threatened species, giving us hope that with persistence, determination and the support of government, volunteers and communities, we can win the fight against extinction,” said Dr Amy Coetsee, Zoos Victoria Threatened Species Biologist. “I am proud to have been part of this amazing recovery effort for the past 16 years.”
How did they do it?
The recovery team established populations in four fenced reintroduction sites at Woodlands Historic Park, Hamilton Community Parklands, Mt Rothwell and Tiverton. These fenced sites are predator free.
In addition, two sites at Skipton and Dunkeld are protected by Guardian Dogs from Zoos Victoria. With the dogs nearby, predators like foxes are deterred from hunting the bandicoots.
Bandicoots are also thriving on the secure and fox-free Phillip, Churchill and French Islands. These bandicoots were translocated from captive breeding programs and fenced reserves. Now, there are about 1500 bandicoots across both the islands and the fenced sites, prompting the reclassification from extinct to endangered.
In addition, some of the captive-bred population has been interbred with their nearest relative, the Tasmanian Eastern Barred Bandicoot. This will improve the population’s genetic fitness, and increase their resilience to climate change.
“This success is due to the efforts of every member of the recovery team,” said Minister D’Ambrosio. “Community volunteers have played a big role at many of the reintroduction sites, helping check fences, count bandicoots and remove weeds and pests.”
Zoos Victoria has also ended their 30-year captive breeding program, due to the changed status of the bandicoots. A specific set of triggers, including population numbers, sizes, stability, and a completion of all planned introductions to new sites, had to be met before making this decision. Now, the Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Team is confident that the program is no longer necessary. Of course, the zoos will continue to assist with the care of animals that require veterinary assistance, awareness raising, research and monitoring of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot.
For the Minister’s full statement, click here.