Thursday, August 17, 2023

Bandicoot Reintroduction, Australia

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature, Wildlife, Sustainability, Global Change

Ed Hessler

I loved learning more about Australia's bandicoots in this story by Abigail Tucker in Smithsonian July -  August 2023. Such curious looking little creatures, maligned during colonial times because of their appearance. Bush Heritage Australia and the Wiki entry add much to their story.

It is a story of recovery, one with the inevitable "ifs" "maybes," about being nearly wiped out by invasive species and habitat loss. One of them "the western barred bandicoot...had persisted for some 26 million years in the harsh outback." ... By the 1940s," writes Tucker, "the western barred bandicoot whose original range stretched across much of the continent. ... (is now restricted to) two predator - free islands in Shark Bay.  They don't have a set breeding season with "births triggered by rainfall in the bone-dry desert," writes Tucker. 

Tucker describes "a new effort to seed a mainland bandicoot revival using Shark Bay bandicoots. .... Wild Deserts has "imported  20 bandicoots to a preserved on the edge of Strezelecki Desert, in the remote interior of New South Wales."

Tucker tells us about the design of their reintroduction plan. "The imported bandicoots occupy two fenced 'exclosures,' cleared of invasive rabbits and feral cats." A third fenced area contains the program's Wild Training Zone." There "two other rare marsupials...share terrain with controlled numbers of cats, learning to evade them." The unknown is "whether the (predator-naive) Shark Bay bandicoots will be able to...breakthrough."

And Tucker adds one bit of encouragement. "A recent surge in rainfall has led to a bandicoot joey boom, raising that number to about 100."
Reece Pedler, co-founder of Desert Initiatives has given the wee beasts a "new nickname--a flattering one, ecosystem engineers."

No comments:

Post a Comment