Endangered bandicoots emerge under cover of dark

13 January 2021

Two incredibly precious babies – and one very patient mother – have emerged from their burrow to the delight of Werribee Open Range Zoo keepers.

Keeper Cam caught the nocturnal youngsters bounding about, exploring the world outside their mother’s pouch, but it wasn’t long before they attempted to bundle back in together. No small feat for the rapidly growing pouch young.

Life Sciences Manager Australian Trail Meagan McPharlin said sensor camera footage helps keepers stay out of the dark during a sensitive developmental period.

“Once we discover that a female is carrying pouch young, we are hands off until the babies are 60 days old,” said Ms McPharlin. “Being nocturnal animals, this footage is an important tool that allows us to monitor the development of pouch young in the lead up to their first health check.”

Eastern barred bandicoot young begin to separate from their mothers at 75 – 80 days old, when they establish separate nests from their mother’s. When the bandicoots have separated and weigh above 240 grams, keepers will transfer the individuals into their own habitats until they are either released into reintroduction sites later this year or introduced to the regional breeding program.

“These are our first of hopefully many Eastern barred bandicoot young of the season,” said Ms McPharlin. “Last year, we successfully bred 10 babies who went on to breeding and release programs across the state.”

Eastern barred bandicoots were once widespread across the grassy woodlands of southwest Victoria, however extensive habitat degradation and the spread of introduced predators following European settlement saw the bandicoot population plummet. Today, Eastern barred bandicoots are extinct in the wild on mainland Australia.

In November 2020, Zoos Victoria along with the Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Team released 20 bandicoots to a reserve in Skipton, Western Victoria, under the protection of Guardian dogs in a world-first conservation effort.

Werribee Open Range Zoo re-opened to visitors in October under the latest changing of coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions by the Victorian Government. Daily visitor numbers are capped and all tickets must be pre-purchased online. For more information, visit: www.zoo.org.au

The Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Team has members from Conservation Volunteers Australia, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), Mt Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre, National Trust of Australia (Victoria), Parks Victoria, Phillip Island Nature Par ks, the University of Melbourne, Tiverton Property Partnering and Zoos Victoria.

The Zoos Victoria Guardian Dog Project has members from Dunkeld Pastoral Company, National Trust of Australia (Victoria), Tiverton Property Partnering, the University of Melbourne, the University of Tasmania and Zoos Victoria.