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Eastern Barred Bandicoot trial introduction
Research Project: Introduction of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot on Churchill Island
The mainland subspecies of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot (Perameles gunnii) is critically endangered and currently only occurs in captivity and in three re-introduced populations in Victoria. It is estimated that there are around 1,500 Eastern Barred Bandicoots left on 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 the mainland.
In Victoria, fox-free habitat is considered to be essential for the future survival of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot. Victoria’s largest islands (French Island and Phillip Island) have suitable habitat for this species and no foxes, or in the case of Phillip Island, very few foxes. Both islands could potentially support a large population of bandicoots. To test the suitability of islands, 20 bandicoots were released onto Churchill Island in August 2015. Results of this trial release will determine whether a further releases onto Phillip Island or French Island are pursued.
To investigate the survival and habitat use of bandicoots on Churchill Island, so as to assess the suitability of the area for a full introduction program on French Island and Phillip Island. Specifically, the study aims to:
- Monitor the body mass of released animals to determine whether habitat conditions on Churchill Island are suitable to sustain a bandicoot population
- Determine the rates and causes of mortality in the bandicoots
- Investigate habitat preferences of bandicoots in order to evaluate any potential impacts bandicoots may have on threatened vegetation, agricultural land or human assets.
Bandicoots were fitted with radio-collars at Melbourne Zoo and Mt Rothwell and released onto Churchill Island. They were then monitored intensively for one month post release by radio-tracking during the day and at night to confirm their location, status (alive or dead), and habitat use. Now that the collars have been removed trapping and camera traps are being used to monitor physical condition and habitat use across the island.
- 17 individuals are known to be alive eight months after release
- Bandicoots have spread across the entire island
- The third generation has now been born on the island
- There has only been one known mortality, a captive animal that failed to adapt to the wild conditions.
Primary researcher: Duncan Sutherland (Deputy Research Manager, Phillip Island Nature Parks)
Participating organisations: Zoos Victoria; DELWP; Mt Rothwell; Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Team