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Eastern Barred Bandicoot trial introduction
Research Project: Trial introduction of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot on French Island
The mainland subspecies of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot (Perameles gunnii) is critically endangered and currently only occurs in captivity and in three small re-introduced populations in Victoria. It is estimated that there are fewer than 500 Eastern Barred Bandicoots left in mainland Australia.
The species previously occurred in south-west Victoria and south-east South Australia but since European settlement, 99% of its preferred habitat of native grasslands and grassy woodlands has been lost in Victoria. The introduced Red Fox has also been a major contributor to the extinction of the species from unfenced areas of the mainland.
In Victoria, fox-free habitat is considered to be essential for the future survival of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot. French Island is Victoria’s largest island and, with suitable habitat for this species and no foxes, it could potentially support a large population of bandicoots.
In 2012, eighteen non-breeding bandicoots were released onto French Island as part of a 12-month trial release.
To investigate the survival and habitat use of bandicoots on French Island so as to assess the suitability of the island for a full introduction program. Specifically, the study aimed to:
- Monitor the body mass of released animals to determine whether habitat conditions on French Island are suitable to sustain a bandicoot population
- Determine the rates and causes of mortality in the bandicoots
- Investigate food and habitat preferences of bandicoots in order to evaluate (i) the likelihood of competition occurring with the endemic Long-nosed Potoroo population and (ii) any potential impacts bandicoots may have on threatened vegetation, agricultural land or human assets
Bandicoots were fitted with internal radio-transmitters at Melbourne Zoo and released onto French Island. They were then monitored intensively by radio-tracking during the day and at night to confirm their location, status (alive or dead), and habitat use. Bandicoots were also trapped periodically to assess their physical condition and diet (from faecal samples left in the traps).
- Eleven individuals were alive one month following their release
- They remained within 800m of their release sites and maintained good body weight
- Some cases of mortality have been attributed to predation by cats and toxoplasmosis
After 10 months on French Island, surviving bandicoots will be brought back to Melbourne Zoo for examination
Primary researcher: Rebecca Groenewegen (MSc candidate, University of Melbourne)
Participating organisations: Zoos Victoria; University of Melbourne; Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Team