Kowari

Brad Leue/AWC

Quick Facts

  • SCIENTIFIC NAME: Dasyuroides byrnei
  • FAMILY: Dasyuridae
  • NATIONAL CONSERVATION STATUS: Endangered
  • STATE CONSERVATION STATUS: Vulnerable (QLD), Endangered (SA), Extinct (NT)
  • ESTIMATED POPULATION: <10,000
Brad Leue/AWC

What is AWC doing?

AWC is assessing the extant conservation values and undertaking biodiversity surveys to confirm the presence of key threatened species, like the Kowari, across NAPCo properties. This will inform the development of a targeted survey program.

Kowari Brad Leue/AWC

Threats to the Kowari

Degradation and destruction of suitable habitat by livestock and predation by feral cats and foxes are considered the primary causes of decline for the species. AWC is developing a targeted survey program for threatened species like the Kowari on NAPCo properties in remote Queensland.

However, the dynamics of the semi-arid and arid systems that Kowari occur in are complex and the link between cattle grazing intensity and Kowari populations is poorly understood. A central part of AWC’s partnership with NAPCo will be establishing threshold levels of grazing that species can tolerate to ensure that populations can be sustained in the long term.

Endangered W Lawler/AWC

Description

Adult Kowari weigh up to 175 g (males) or 140 g (females) and grow to be a total length of up to 34 cm. They have large upright ears and a pointed muzzle with light ashy-grey fur fading to a whitish underside. Their long tail accounts for almost half the total body length and is whitish at the base with a dense black brush on the end half.

Ecology 

The Kowari is a small but ferocious predator hunting at night for invertebrates, small mammals, reptiles, rodents and even birds and their eggs. They are well adapted to life in the central desert and do not need to drink, as they derive moisture from their food.

During the day, this species shelters in burrows that it digs into sand mounds. Such mounds occur infrequently across stony gibber environments in arid Australia, where temperatures often exceed 40°C in summer and fall below 5°C in winter. The term ‘gibber’ refers to the crushed-up rock bits that litter the ground. AWC ecologists have observed Kowaris utilising Bilby burrows on NAPCo properties.

The species is nocturnal and rarely ventures out of its burrow during the day, except in the cold of winter when individuals may bask in the sun at the burrow entrance. When the weather is cold and food supply is scarce, the Kowari may become torpid (a form of hibernation).

Kowaris are solitary and breed between April and December, usually only once per year. Females produce litters of up to six young, which are dependent on their mother for less than three months.

Range and abundance 

Kowari populations have declined across Australia’s central deserts, and the species currently has a very limited distribution. The few populations that remain are located in arid South Australia and western Queensland.

AWC scientists have recorded the Kowari on NAPCo properties in western Queensland. The Kowari has been recorded in protected areas such as Diamantina and Astrebla Downs National Parks. Additional research on the ecology of the species is needed as well as identification of specific threats and high priority conservation areas.

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