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Guardian Dogs to Protect Bandicoots in New Trial

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: December 18, 2020 12:20 am

eastern barred bandicoot zoos victoria

A young eastern barred bandicoot at Melbourne Zoo

Photo Credit: Zoos Victoria

A group of endangered eastern barred bandicoots are safely returning to the wild as part of an innovative conservation project led by Zoos Victoria in collaboration with the University of Tasmania.

20 eastern barred bandicoots have been released in to National Trust of Australia (Victoria) reserve where they will live under the protection of a pair of guardian dogs trained by Zoos Victoria. The dogs will work to deter the invasive red fox with their effectiveness monitored by a team of conservationists and scientists.

This release follows four years of training the dogs at Werribee Open Range Zoo.

“We’ve trained the dogs to leave the bandicoots alone, and instead bonded the dogs to protect a flock of sheep,” Mr Williams said. “The dogs are not bonded directly to the bandicoots as they are solitary and nocturnal – so they do not flock. However, sheep do flock, and in the Skipton reserve the sheep can eat grass, bandicoots can live in the grassland, and all three species can share the same habitat.”

eastern barred bandicoot zoos victoria

An eastern barred bandicoot is released in to the wild

Photo Credit: Zoos Victoria

Eastern barred bandicoots are extinct on the Australian mainland. Their total extinction has been prevented by the maintenance of a captive insurance population managed by Zoos Victoria and releases in to fenced reserves.

The guardian dog project will hopefully allow the eastern barred bandicoot to once again live in the wild on the mainland.

Two of the main threats faced by the eastern barred bandicoot are habitat destruction and hunting by introduced predators.

guardian dogs zoos victoria

A maremma guardian dog with the flock of sheep

Photo Credit: Zoos Victoria

Mr Williams said the research trial’s key measure of success will be the establishment of a self-sustaining population of bandicoots, first at Skipton and then at several other sites in western Victoria – including Dunkeld in 2021.

“As the bandicoots are going back into natural habitat on the mainland, some may not make it through the journey. However, the aim is that the presence of the dogs will alter the behaviour of the foxes, which will allow the Eastern Barred Bandicoots to thrive in that environment once again.”

The success of the trial will be monitored by 35 remote cameras. Both the guardian dogs and the bandicoots are fitted with trackers so they can be found. The trackers for the bandicoots weigh a mere 1.32g.

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National Trust of Australia (Victoria) CEO Simon Ambrose said The National Trust were thrilled to be part of the extraordinary conservation project alongside Zoos Victoria and the University of Tasmania.

“We welcome the endangered Eastern Barred Bandicoot back home to the western districts of Victoria. The National Trust works in partnership with organisations like Zoos Victoria to ensure the custodianship and celebration of our natural, cultural, social and Indigenous heritage for future generations of Victorians. This project demonstrates that commitment from all of us involved in protecting the Eastern Barred Bandicoot.”

eastern barred bandicoot zoos victoria

An adult eastern barred bandicoot at Werribee Open Range Zoo

Photo Credit: Zoos Victoria

Learn more about Werribee Open Range Zoo on their website – Werribee Open Range Zoo

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