Image: © Tom Sayers/Australian WildlifeConservancy
August 21, 2023 3:37 pm
City, State, Country
The Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) have returned the golden bandicoot to Central Australia with individuals translocated to (AWC) Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary, on Ngalia-Warlpiri and Luritja Country in the Red Centre. The release follows years of planning and work to identify suitable individuals and plan for their move.
In a historic move the founding population was gifted by the Ngarinyin People, the Traditional Custodians of Wilinggin Country in the Kimberley, Western Australia, including AWC’s Charnley River – Artesian Range Wildlife Sanctuary. The return to country of the bandicoots was welcomed by the Traditional Custodians of Watakinpirri Country —a rugged mountain range and its surrounding sandplains on Newhaven, where the Golden Bandicoots were released.
Forty golden bandicoots were taken from AWC’s Charnley River-Artesian Range Wildlife Sanctuary for reintroduction in collaboration with Wilinggin Aboriginal Corporation (WAC) Rangers. Once secured in pet packs they were moved approximately 1,000 kilometres from the Kimberley to Central Australia by two WAC Darran.gu Wulagura (Strong Women) Rangers, Zarharny Charles and Nerelle Umbagai, as well as AWC ecologists, Dr Karen Young and Samantha Mulvena.
In coming weeks a further 60 golden bandicoots will be moved from Barrow Island in Western Australia to Newhaven.
Beginning in 2016 AWC explored populations of the golden bandicoot which may be suitable to translocate to Newhaven. The Kimberley’s Artesian Range population was identified as a potential source for the translocation, subject to relevant approvals and collaboration with the Traditional Owners.
A key problem was identifying the golden bandiccots against their near-identical relative the Northern Brown Bandicoot, which co-exist in some areas of the Kimberley.
“We had confirmed detections of a few Golden Bandicoots in the Artesian Range, but we didn’t know their full distribution in the region, how many there were, and had no definitive way to tell them apart from the Northern Brown in the field,” said Dr Skye Cameron, AWC Regional Ecologist in the Kimberley. “On camera and even in the hand, the two species have been challenging to confidently identify, as juvenile Northern Brown Bandicoots can be very similar to adult Goldens, and we have spent the last several years crunching the data to validate a method for in-field Identification.
“Initially, we learned that their third and fourth molars were different, working with bandicoot experts from the WA museum, but the dental route would have had us inspecting the mouths of bandicoots for translocation, and this wasn’t a practical technique. After collecting morphological data on more than 300 bandicoots, and validating the species identification using genetic analysis, we now know that the Golden Bandicoots have a shorter foot than the Northern Brown, for a given weight, making in-field species identification easy and reliable.
“As we continued monitoring both species of bandicoot across the Kimberley, the team now have an eye for the slight differences in how the fur feels and looks, and how Northern Browns of similar size snouts are a little longer and pointier than that of the Golden Bandicoot.”
Ecologists nicknamed their method of telling the bandicoots apart, the Cinderella analysis. This method allowed the team to commence a 10 day population survey. Traps were laid across the site with 735 animals being caught including 94 individuals. Genetic analysis confirmed their identifications were 100% correct. This allowed an estimate of the population to be established with 6,000 golden bandicoots believed to be thriving in the area.
With the golden bandicoots successfully identified the team were ready to collect the first individuals to move to Newhaven.
The bandicoots and their chaperones were greeted upon arrival by the Newhaven conservation team, including the Newhaven Warlpiri Rangers and Traditional Custodian Douglas Tjupurrula Dixon who welcomed their guests, including Yondi Nulgit (Ngarinyin Traditional Owner) and Rachel Treacy (Darran.gu Wulagura Ranger Coordinator) from the Kimberley.
“My name is April Napaljarri Spencer, I’m Warlpiri, I come from Newhaven. I’ve come here and I’m really happy. These young people can look after and take on this country, parents can bring their children, so children can learn from this place.
“Those animals that they brought today, the bandicoots from the Kimberley - we’re really happy about that. Two women brought them to show us, and we will show them our country where these animals are coming to.
Before their release twenty of the golden bandicoots were tagged with a VHF radio collars or tail-mounted tags which will monitor their movements for four weeks. They then were released becoming the seventh species reintroduced at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary.
Dr John Kanowski, AWC Chief Science Officer celebrated the return of the bandicoots to Central Australia.
“The reintroduction will help secure the long-term future of the species. The Golden Bandicoot is one of many small mammals that have been extirpated from the region due to predation by cats and foxes and altered fire regimes,” said Dr Kanowski. “As ecosystem engineers, Golden Bandicoots play an important ecological role – turning over soil, which increases the rate of leaf litter decomposition, soil production and nutrient cycling.”
Prior to European settlement the golden bandicoot was abundant through Australia's arid interior and were an important food source for First Nations people. Their decline has been caused by introduced predators and an increased frequency of wildfire.
Golden bandicoots are named for the golden fur on their back and sides.
One of 40 Golden Bandicoots reintroduced to Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary from Charnley River–Artesian Range Wildlife Sanctuary on 14 August 2023 Image: © Brad Leue/Australian Wildlife Conservancy
Chantelle Jackson, Australian Wildlife Conservancy Senior Field Ecologistreleases a GoldenBandicootinto Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary’s 9,450 hectare feral predator-free area. Image: © Brad Leue/Australian Wildlife Conservancy
About the Author
Cale has operated The Animal Facts since 2012. During this time he has volunteered and worked across a range of Australian Wildlife Parks something he continues to today. He holds a certificate in Animal Care and Husbandry.
Golden bandicoots have an incredibly short gestation period. This lasts just two weeks before the barely developed young is born and makes its way in to the pouch.
Image: © Brad Leue/Australian Wildlife Conservancy
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