Threatened bilbies bandicoots flourish far away from cats and foxes

Set among the rolling sand dunes and green sea of growing shrubs in the arid far north-western corner of NSW lies two enclosures where bandicoots, mulgaras and bilbies roam. The mammals, that were once locally extinct in the Sturt National Park are now thriving in their feral-free zones, with researchers amazed by how quickly they have repopulated.

“It’s wonderful to see these animals back in their original home, prospering, and restoring this desert ecosystem to some of its past magnificence,” University of NSW Wild Deserts Project Leader Professor Richard Kingsford said. “As well as mulgara and bilbies, 13 Shark Bay bandicoots translocated in May last year have not wasted time either.”

“The population is estimated to have doubled, only six months after they were released. Each female bandicoot can have two young and the six females translocated have already had two litters each since arriving at Sturt National Park.”

There are plans to reintroduce a fourth species to the national park, the golden bandicoot, in 2022.

Professor Kingsford said the project highlighted how conservation could work when threats were managed.

“Ultimately the threats of cats, foxes and rabbits and goats is something everyone can agree on. That is why I think we see such a strong investment in this sort of approach. But it shows if you did focus on other threats, like climate change and water resource development and land clearing, you could also achieve widespread conservation,” he said.