Image: © Australian Wildlife Conservancy

Bouncing Baby Bettong Brings Hope for Threatened Species


Cale Russell


September 1, 2023 6:44 pm


Queensland, Australia

A species listed as one of the 20 most endangered in Australia has received a major boost with ecologists discovering the first new independent young within the northern bettong population at Mount Zero-Taravale Wildlife Sanctuary (Gugu Badhun country) in north-east Queensland.

Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) ecologists Felicity L’Hotellier and Melissa Christi were conducting a routine population survey three months after the release. With the help of truffle flavoured bait balls the animals were lured in to traps for a check up.

Halfway through their checks for the night at 1.45am on August 17 2023 they discovered the sub-adult male waiting patiently in the trap. He was ushered in to a breathable bag and checked to confirm that this was indeed the first individual to join the new population.

“This little sub-adult is so special,” Felicity said of the young Northern Bettong. “He’s around 700 grams, and smaller than any of the males we translocated to Mount Zero-Taravale three months ago; this little one would have been a pouch young, carried in the safety of his mum’s pouch during the translocation, and since then has finished his development and successfully joined the population here as an independent sub-adult; the first new recruit we’ve encountered!”

He won't be the only addition to the population with a number of females found during the check carrying young in their pouch, the first to be born at Mount Zero-Taravale. Some were fresh and as small as a jellybean while others are well on their way to popping out of the pouch.

“We expected breeding to have commenced among the Northern Bettongs but seeing the pouch young born at Mount Zero-Taravale is really exciting,” said Melissa. “It’s also encouraging to know that the population is already growing, and we hope that in the next five years or so their numbers will reach up to 500 individuals, which would increase the species’ overall population by almost 50%.

Northern bettongs are known from just two populations with as few as 1,5000 individuals making up their entire population. The population on Mount Carbine Tableland includes just 30 animals. Two other populations have gone extinct in the last two years.

AWC worked alongside Traditional Owners, the Department of Environment and Science (DES) and the Northern Bettong Recovery Team to secure the specie's future by moving 49 individuals to Mount-Zero Taravale in May of this year.

The three month survey has confirmed that these animals are now thriving in their new home.

The animals are being kept safe within a 950 hectare feral predator free fenced reserve. Construction of the reserve was supported by the Australian Government, Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science, Oak Foundation, WIRES, as well as donations from AWC supporters around the world.

Northern Bettong Baby Mount Zero-Taravale Australian Wildlife Conservancy

Felicity L’Hotellier, Australian Wildlife Conservancy Senior Field Ecologist, with the first new independent juvenile Northern Bettong at Mount Zero-Taravale Wildlife Sanctuary. Image: © Australian Wildlife Conservancy

Northern Bettong Baby Mount Zero-Taravale Australian Wildlife Conservancy

A Northern Bettong pouch young in the early stages of developing fur Image: © FelicityL’Hotellier/Australian Wildlife Conservanc

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Rufous Bettong (Aepyprymnus rufescens)

Meet Another Bettong!

The bettongs are a group of species found across much of Australia. You can meet the rufous bettong with our fact file.

About the Author

Cale Russell

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.

Our Favourite Northern Bettong Fact!

The northern bettong is an expert in finding and digging up fungi and truffles which form the main component of their diet for much of the year.

Image: © Australian Wildlife Conservancy

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