Wildlife Matters

Spotlight on bandicoots

07 May. 2024
Tom Sayers/AWC

By Pearl Cardis, AWC Science Writer

Some of Australia’s best gardeners, bandicoots have been taking care of our soil for almost thirty million years. Like their Bilby cousins, these ‘ecosystem engineers’ increase the rate of leaf litter decomposition, soil production, fungi spore dispersal and nutrient cycling through their avid digging for food and shelter.

Though once widespread across mainland Australia, feral cats and foxes decimated bandicoot numbers, and modification of vegetation by land clearing, rabbits, stock and changed fire regimes compounded declines. Of the estimated 12 species of bandicoot in Australia, approximately half are now extinct, threatened with extinction or extremely rare.

Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) is protecting bandicoots by implementing fire management and removing feral predators, weeds and feral herbivores. We are also restoring species to their former ranges, with benefits for the ecosystems they once inhabited.

Goldenbandi Intext Sam Mulvena/AWC
Your support is securing a future for bandicoots like these young Golden Bandicoots at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary in Central Australia.
Golden Bandicoot Brad Leue/AWC

Golden Bandicoot

Status: Vulnerable

The Golden Bandicoot is the most colourful of the short-nosed bandicoots. Its underparts are pale honey, and above, its golden-brown fur is streaked with shiny black guard hairs.

Like many bandicoots, the Golden Bandicoot disappeared from most of its formerly extensive arid to semi-arid range following European colonisation, surviving only on some cat-free islands and in parts of the north Kimberley.

In August 2023, AWC facilitated the species’ return to Central Australia, reintroducing the culturally significant bandicoot – known as pakuru in the local Warlpiri language – to Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary in the Northern Territory after an almost 60-year absence.

Northern Brown Bandicoot Larissa Potter/AWC

Northern Brown Bandicoot

Status: Not listed

At 47 centimetres long, this species takes the crown for Australia’s largest bandicoot. The Northern Brown Bandicoot is common in tropical and subtropical forest, woodland, scrub, grassland and gardens across much of north and eastern Australia, however, the species is declining across more arid parts of its range.

To conserve areas of dense low ground cover, which the bandicoot requires, and decrease predation pressure, AWC is implementing fire management, removing feral herbivores and reducing the activity of feral cats. The tangible impact of these activities has been visible in our Ecohealth metrics, with Northern Brown Bandicoot population increases in the Central Kimberley.

Shark Bay Bandicoot Wayne Lawler/AWC

Shark Bay Bandicoot

Status: Endangered

Though Australia’s smallest extant bandicoot, the Shark Bay Bandicoot has a big personality, hiding a sometimes-hostile temperament behind its delicate appearance. Despite this demeanour, feral predators are the primary cause of its disappearance from the mainland and wild populations remain only on Bernier and Dorre islands in Shark Bay.

AWC has successfully reintroduced Shark Bay Bandicoots to Faure Island and Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary in Western Australia, and to the Pilliga Forest in New South Wales. AWC is planning a fourth reintroduction of this species this year, to Mallee Cliffs National Park in New South Wales. The populations in these fenced feral predator-free safe havens are projected to double the global population size of the species. AWC also contributes expert advice to the Shark Bay Mammals Recovery Team.

Long-nosed Bandicoot (Northern and Southern species) . Wayne Lawler/AWC

Long-nosed Bandicoot (Northern and Southern species)

Status: Not listed

These buff brown, barless species were previously categorised as subspecies of the Long-nosed Bandicoot but have since been recognised as distinct taxa with geographically distinct ranges.

AWC protects Northern Long-nosed Bandicoots (pictured) at Brooklyn and Mt Zero–Taravale wildlife sanctuaries in Queensland, and Southern Long-nosed Bandicoots at Curramore (QLD) and Waulinbakh (NSW) wildlife sanctuaries. At Brooklyn, Northern Long-nosed Bandicoots were detected at six of eight sites surveyed in upland rainforests and tall eucalypt forests in 2022. These findings suggest that the population and the ecosystems they are a part of are healthy, a promising reflection of our best-practice land management work.

Southern Brown Bandicoot and Quenda Wayne Lawler/AWC

Southern Brown Bandicoot and Quenda 

Status: Endangered (Southern Brown Bandicoot) and not listed (Quenda)

Like other bandicoots, Southern Brown Bandicoots and Quenda (pictured) dig resting holes and line them with litter, leaves, and debris to sleep in during the day. An individual can create around 45 foraging pits per night, displacing 3.9 tonnes of soil per year.

The endangered Southern Brown Bandicoot occurs in south-east Australia and is currently protected by AWC in the Western River Refuge on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. AWC hopes to establish a genetically diverse population within the fenced safe haven.

The Quenda occurs in south-west Western Australia. It is protected in the fenced area at AWC’s Karakamia Wildlife Sanctuary and is also present in low numbers at Paruna Wildlife Sanctuary, both in the Perth Hills.

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