Kangaroo Island Dunnarts Recover After Bushfires
Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team
Date: February 10, 2022 11:50 am
A researcher holds a Kangaroo Island dunnart during a survey to determine their recovery after the bushfires of two years ago
Photo Credit: Zoos SA
Two years on from devastating bushfires on Kangaroo Island off the Australian coast the landscape is beginning to recover. Zoos SA have shared exciting news from their conservation work on the island with six critically endangered Kangaroo Island dunnarts found during a recent survey.
Over 95% of known KI dunnart habitat was burnt during the bushfires so the discovery is exciting news for the recovery of the species.
The discovery of the six dunnarts was made as part of the South Australian Department of Environment and Water’s (DEW) annual Spring fauna surveys with DEW, Kangaroo Island Landscape Board and Zoos SA.
Supported by funding from the Australian Government’s Bushfire Wildlife and Habitat Recovery Investment conservationists from partner organizations and Zoos SA surveyed 18 sites across Flinders Chase National Park and Ravine de Casoars Wilderness Protected Area.
Zoos SA Conservation Field Officer Claire Hartvigsen-Power said this is fantastic news for a species that had over 96 per cent of its habitat burnt just over two years ago.
“It’s too early to say much with any certainty, but actually getting our hands on these healthy individuals is an encouraging sign that the species is persisting well post-fire,” she said.
“All but one of the dunnarts were captured in burnt habitat, which was really interesting to see, and a good indicator that they are managing to live in a really different environment than two years ago.
“Further research and monitoring is going to be crucial in providing us with answers on how dunnarts continue to adapt and survive in a recovering landscape.”
The six dunnarts were two males and four females. All were healthy and some showed recent signs of breeding. The new captures boost the number found since the bushfires from three to nine.
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Researchers were able to get well acquainted with one dunnart known as Claude. He was fitted with a tiny radio collar so they could follow his movements.
“Over the following weeks we braved the cold overnight temperatures and sometimes wild weather to track Claude’s nightly movements, from leaving his nest hole at sunset, to returning home at first light,” said Claire.
“Video footage showed Claude adapting well to the collar, as each evening he would meticulously groom himself before leaving to forage, and then each morning hesitantly check his nest-hole before entering to sleep for the day. We have all become very fond of him after monitoring him for so long!
Claude also enjoyed a lucky escape from one of his main predators as Claire explained, "One interesting moment we caught on remote camera footage was a heath goanna, one of the KI dunnart’s natural predators, attack Claude’s nest hole."
“The goanna sniffed around the entrance of the hole, and then proceeded to dig at the hole with its claws before sticking its head and neck down the hole."
“Luckily Claude escaped unscathed and that night he left that nest hole and didn’t return, settling in a new nest hole.”
Claude was monitored for a month before having the collar removed and being returned to his nest.
“Following the removal of the collar the team have continued to collect vision of Claude using his various nest holes which is confirmation that he is healthy and doing well," Paul said.
"This is great news ahead of more trapping planned for late February and March that will provide more valuable insights into this species’ very private lives."
After their success with Claude Zoos SA are planning more monitoring efforts for the KI Dunnart population in to the future.
Claude the Kangaroo Island dunnart was tracked over an extended period helping to provide new insights in to this elusive species
Photo Credit: Zoos SA