Bettongs bounce into new home in bid to save species

More critically endangered brush-tailed bettongs have been released on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula in a project to re-introduce the species not found in the area for more than a century.

The 73 bettongs were flown from Western Australia and released in their new home in the Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park.

The 49 males and 24 females were collected from a healthy wild population in the Dryandra National Park and from a fenced sanctuary about 180km southeast of Perth.

The bettongs were given health checks and many were fitted with tracking devices to monitor their progress.

“It was quite emotional seeing these little animals leaping away into a landscape where they haven’t been found for generations,” Zoos SA conservation manager Mark Smith said.

“The winter months are an important breeding time for bettongs, so we’re excited to see how these new animals engage with the existing population on Yorke Peninsula.”

The release was the fourth and largest group brought to the region during the past three years as part of Marna Banggara, a project to restore locally extinct species jointly funded by the SA government, WWF-Australia, the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife, in partnership with the Narungga Nation Aboriginal Corporation.

Representatives from the Narungga people travelled to WA to meet the traditional custodians of the area, the Noongar Gnaala Karla Boodja people.

Previous releases have included two cohorts of animals from Wedge Island in SA and one group from the Upper Warren region of WA.

Recent monitoring revealed these bettongs were breeding and thriving. Almost half of the 85 caught by researchers were born on Yorke Peninsula and of the 45 mature females checked, 42 were carrying young.

Also known as yalgi in the Narungga language, brush-tailed bettongs disappeared from Yorke Peninsula more than a century ago because of habitat loss and the spread of predators, including foxes and feral cats.

WWF Australia rewilding project manager Rob Brewster said the recent monitoring was the best indication yet the species might be able to be successfully reintroduced where there was suitable habitat and ongoing predator control.

“If this population can be sustained over time, it would be the first successful reintroduction of this species beyond islands and fenced safe-havens,” Mr Brewster said.

Other locally extinct species such as the southern brown bandicoot, red-tailed phascogale and western quoll are also being considered for reintroduction to support the ecosystem.


Tim Dornin
(Australian Associated Press)


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