Numbat Fact File
Wild 5 years
Captive 5 years
Ants & Termites
Numbats are a species of marsupial from Australia found in the wild solely in the state of Western Australia. Their numbers have been significantly reduced by the introduction of predators such as foxes and cats. Currently less than 1,000 are thought to remain.
They have a specialized diet feeding on up to 20,000 termites each day. These can be obtained using their long, sticky tongue.
This species has been nicknamed the ‘striped anteater’ owing to the white stripes which cross their rusty brown fur.
Unlike other marsupials their pouch is not fully developed instead it is best described as a flap of skin which helps to protect the young in the early stages of development.
Learn more about these magnificent mammals by reading on below.
The numbat is also known as the ‘striped anteater’ and they are noticeable for the white bands running across the back which is covered with rusty brown fur at the top and grey-black fur near the tail. A black stripe runs across the eye. On the underside their fur is beige.
They have a bushy tail which measures 12-21cm (4.7-8.2in) long.
Numbats are equipped with more teeth than any other Australian land animal. They have 25 pairs of small teeth within their mouth. Also inside the mouth is the long tongue used to catch termites. This measures up to 100mm (3.93in).
Male numbats are larger than females. Their head and body measures 22-29cm (8.7-11.4in) for males and 20-26.7cm (7.9-10.5in) for females. A male will weigh 405-752g (14.3-26.5oz) while females weigh 205-647g (7.2-22.8oz).
The numbat is a carnivore. Their diet is made up entirely of insects. The main target is termites though they also eat ants. Each numbat needs to consume as many as 20,000 termites per day. Ants are typically only consumed accidentally.
They have strong claws on the forefoot which is used to rip open an ant nest and the numbat will then lick up the insects with their long tongue.
Numbats require little water as they can obtain all of their water needs from their diet.
— AD —
Australia is the native home of the numbat. Currently fully wild populations are restricted to Western Australia. Re-introduced populations exist within fenced in reserves in South Australia and New South Wales.
Previously they were found in the wild across Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and the Northern Territory.
Numbats make their home in a wide range of habitats including forests, woodland, savanna, shrubland and deserts.
They seek shelter in a hollow log or a burrow that they may dig to be between 1 and 2m (3.3-6.6ft) long underground.
Breeding takes place in January which is fairly synchronized across the population. Females have only a 48 hour window in which to mate.
Four young are born after the incredibly short 14 day gestation period. While the numbat is a marsupial they do not have a traditional pouch instead sporting a simple flap of skin.
They will suckle on milk and be carried in the pouch till July. At this point they are left in the burrow while the mom goes to feed. She will return each night to provide them with milk. While suckling their snout is flat and snubby to keep them close to the teat. When they wean the pointed snout of an adult will develop for catching ants.
In September they will begin to emerge from the burrow and start learning to feed.
By 10 months old the young will begin to move off and establish their own territory.
Females reach sexual maturity at 1 year old while males reach sexual maturity at 2 years old.
Numbats are active by day as this is when their food source is most active. Their activity is linked to that of termites. During summer termites are active by morning and night. As such numbats awake at this time of day and rest through the hottest parts of the day.
During winter they are not active till late morning and remain active till night.
The numbat forms a territory and they will not tolerate a same-sex intruder in this habitat.
Predators and Threats
Introduced predators present a major threat including the red fox and domestic cat. When red foxes are removed from their habitat there is a significant increase in the numbat population.
Less than 1,000 numbats are estimated to remain in the wild.
Humans have affected their population through habitat destruction and fragmentation along with fire.
A successful breeding program exists at Perth Zoo and between 1993 and 2017 this program produced 220 numbat joeys. Some of these have been released to the wild.
They are one of only two mammals in Australia which are considered to be strictly diurnal.
Numbats are the only member of their family and are not closely related to any living marsupials. Their closest relative is the Tasmanian tiger or thylacine.
Copyright. The Animal Facts
Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK
Slater, P. and Parish, S., 2016. First Field Guide To Australian Mammals. 1st ed. New South Wales: Pascal Press.
AWC – Australian Wildlife Conservancy. 2020. Numbat – AWC – Australian Wildlife Conservancy. [online] Available at: <https://www.australianwildlife.org/wildlife/numbat/> [Accessed 3 September 2020].
Project Numbat. 2020. The Numbat — Project Numbat. [online] Available at:
<http://www.numbat.org.au/thenumbat> [Accessed 3 September 2020].
PerthZooWebsite. 2020. Numbat. [online] Available at: <https://perthzoo.wa.gov.au/animal/numbat> [Accessed 3 September 2020].
Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions. (2017). Fauna profile – Numbat Myrmecobius fasciatus Retrieved from http://www.dbca.wa.gov.au/
Woinarski, J. & Burbidge, A.A. 2016. Myrmecobius fasciatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T14222A21949380. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-2.RLTS.T14222A21949380.en. Downloaded on 03 September 2020.
EDGE of Existence. 2020. Numbat | EDGE Of Existence. [online] Available at: <http://www.edgeofexistence.org/species/numbat/> [Accessed 3 September 2020].
Copyright The Animal Facts 2023