Connector Newsletter Issue 38

The Biosphere’s Bandicoots 

July 17, 2023

Stephen Brend- Project Officer 

Recently, we heard an intriguing report of a bandicoot at Woolley Beach.  Our first thought was that the animal would be an Agile Antechinus, but it is possible that it was a Long-nosed bandicoot or even maybe, just maybe, a Southern brown bandicoot.  After all, the relatively wet summer and mild autumn have produced very favourable conditions for them. If they were to be found, it is likely to be now. It appears that SBB numbers are up in East Gippsland and further to the west.  

This makes it an interesting time to be planning to assist their recovery locally, through translocations.  Clearly, even though considered small, some populations have recovered naturally.  That is good news.  However, it does mean that where populations have not recovered, it suggests that too few animals remained for them to bounce back.  Perhaps they have vanished entirely.  Sadly, this appears to be the case across most of the Biosphere Reserve, the report from Woolley’s Beach notwithstanding.   

Our project examining the feasibility of translocating bandicoots is progressing well.  Phase 1 concluded that translocation is an appropriate, indeed, recommended conservation tool.  Phase 2 considered potential source populations.  Here, the biggest issue was genetic diversity; small populations lack genetic diversity which makes them unsuitable for use as ‘founders’ in a new population.  To overcome this, captive breeding programs will be initiated with a focus on genetic health.  The added advantage of having captive bred individuals available for translocation, is that they can be moved when conditions at the release site are optimal.  In a wild-to wild movement, conditions at both sites must be favourable, which makes the whole operation more complex and less certain.  Phase 3 is considering potential release sites.  This study is still on-going but, hopefully without speaking too soon, Millowl (Phillip Island) is getting a lot of attention….   

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