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Eastern Barred Bandicoot

 

Eastern Barred Bandicoot
Perameles gunnii
Kingdom:   Animalia
Phylum:             Chordata
Class:   Mammalia
Subclass:   Marsupiala
Order:   Peramelemorphia
Family:   Peramelidae
Status
Australia: endangered EPBC Act listed
Victoria: extinct in the wild, FFG Act listed
South Australia: extinct (endangered NPW Act 1972)
Tasmainia: not threatened (DPIPWE)
Victorian FFG: listed: Action statement No. 4 (pdf)

 

Management Actions

Recovery Progress

 

The Eastern Barred Bandicoot Perameles gunnii is a small (rabbit sized) marsupial with a long pointed nose. Colour varies from yellowish-brown above to grey underneath and a light colour on upper side of tail. The most distinguishing feature is the three or four pale bars on the hindquarters.

Formerly widespread throughout western Victoria, the Eastern Barred Bandicoot is now considered 'extinct in the wild' in Victoria (DEPI 2013). The last wild population was located at Hamilton, Victoria which suffered a steady decline throughout the 1990's, with the last sighting in 2002. The mainland Eastern Barred Bandicoot has been saved from extinction due to a captive breeding program lead by Zoos Victoria, which relied on only 7 breeding pairs in 2002. The captive breeding program has enabled the population to re-build through breeding and release into a handful of intensively managed locations where predator proof fencing provides security.  

Eastern Barred Bandicoots are extinct in South Australia but still occur in Tasmania, although are genetically different to the Victorian population.

Historic distribution of Eastern Barred Bandicoot in Victoria. Source: Victorian Biodiversity Atlas, DEPI, Nov. 2014
 

Habitat & ecology

Natural habitat comprises tall, dense native grasslands and grassy woodlands, although remnant populations have adapted to modified habitats provided there is adequate shelter and effective control of predators. Feeding is carried out at night and being omnivorous the diet varies according to the availability of food which includes beetles, crickets, worms, caterpillars and plant material such as berries, tubers and bulbs.

In Victoria, home range varies between 13 to 20 hectares for males and 2 to 3 hectares for females with some overlap in areas. Breeding can occur throughout the year but more prolific between July to November and the success of a breeding season is dependent upon conditions such as the availability of water, food and cover. With an average litter size of 2 and a capacity to have multiple litters per breeding season the population has the potential to expand rapidly under ideal conditions, particularly as offspring have a capacity to reproduce after only 4 months of age. In reality however, optimal conditions are infrequent and high mortality has retarded any significant expansion. During drought conditions population recruitment is low.

Population variations - during the cooler months there is a peak in the number of pouch young, this declines as the weather gets warmer. It is now thought this peak is due to the longer nights in the cooler months and high energy food items such as beetle larvae being more available due to the less compact soils. 

Threats

Major threats are loss of native grassland and grassy woodland habitat and predation from foxes, cats and dogs.

Management actions

Management is carried out in accordance with a Recovery Plan and through a recovery team.

A captive breeding program managed by Zoos Victoria provides both security to the population and also a means of producing animals for reintroduction into the wild. Self-supporting populations protected by fox proof fences have been established at Hamilton Community Parklands, Woodlands Historic Park and Mt Rothwell. During the 1990's re-introduction into the wild without protective fencing was undertaken at ‘Mooramong’ near Skipton, Lake Goldsmith Wildlife Reserve near Beaufort, Floating Islands Nature Reserve near Colac and on a private property ‘Lanark’ at Branxholme. Success varied with drought conditions having a negative impact but all non fenced sites declined mainly due to predation and became unviable.

The recovery plan is now focusing on developing fewer sites such as Woodlands, Hamilton and Mt Rothwell which have been the most resilient sites. The non productive reintroduction sites apart from Moomerong have been abandoned.

Reduced rainfall through climate change has a major impact on populations and the recovery plan will look at ways of drought proofing future re-introductions.

 

Zoos Victoria (Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo, Healesville Sanctuary)

  • Manage captive population to meet population targets and provide 50 Eastern Barred Bandicoots for release each year

Serendip Sanctuary - manage by Parks Victoria

  • Contribute to Zoos Victoria Eastern Barred Bandicoot captive breeding program.

Hamilton Community Parklands (Southern Grampian Shire) – actions by DELWP & Conservation Volunteers

  • Control predators to protect EBB population.
  • Manage Kangaroo numbers to prevent overgrazing and loss of EBB habitat
  • Maintain predator proof barrier fence.
  • Manage environmental weeds.
  • Involve local community including friends groups in Eastern Barred Bandicoot activities and promote the Recovery Program.
  • Undertake population monitoring at least once per year, more frequent if possible.

Mount Rothwell Conservation and Research Centre (Private property)

  • Build new, renew, and maintain predator-barrier fence at Mt Rothwell.
  • Manage all mammalian grazing pressure to prevent overgrazing and loss of EBB habitat
  • Contribute to Zoos Victoria Eastern Barred Bandicoot captive breeding program.
  • Undertake population monitoring and monitor condition of habitat by recovery team.

Mooramong (Private property) – actions by DELWP

  • Control predators to protect EBB population.
  • Undertake population monitoring once per year
  • Monitor condition of habitat.
  • Involve local community including friends groups in Eastern Barred Bandicoot activities and promote the Recovery Program.
  • Protect habitat from fire.
  • Restore and extend habitat.

Woodlands Historic Park (Parks Victoria) – actions by Parks Victoria & Conservation Volunteers

  • Monitor and manage predators esp. Foxes according to site management protocols: Predator activity targets met at each reintroduction site.
  • Upgrade fencing for better fox control.
  • Reintroduce bandicoots from captive breeding program to re-establish population when predators and browsing managed to required low levels.
  • Contribute to Zoos Victoria Eastern Barred Bandicoot captive breeding program.
  • Undertake population monitoring.
  • Monitor condition of habitat.

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Eastern Barred Bandicoot recovery progress 

The success of the recovery program to-date has been achieved through co-operation between Parks Victoria, Conservation Volunteers, Zoos Victoria, Department of Environment and Primary Industries, National Trust and Mt Rothwell Conservation Centre who have worked together to secure remnant populations, increase the captive population and create new predator proof areas for releases that will provide additional security for this species into the future.

Zoos Victoria manages captive breeding at Healesville Sanctuary,  Melbourne Zoo and Werribee Open Range Zoo and Serendip Sanctuary.

16 new enclosures were built at Melbourne Zoo in December 2015 complete with new natural grassy substrates and are now housing Eastern Barred Bandicoots . 

During 2013, a three day Population Viability Analysis (PVA) workshop was run by the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (IUCN Species Survival Commission) hosted by Zoos Victoria. The workshop highlighted the need to establish multiple open-range populations, managed as meta-populations, and the establishment of larger populations.

Zoos Victoria is using genetic analysis of captive and open-range populations  to select new animals for captive breeding.

Zoos Victoria - Fighting extinction program has been fundamental to saving the Eastern Barred Bandicoot from extinction.

 

Werribee Open Range Zoo

The Zoo plays a key role in implementing Zoos Victoria Fighting Extinction Strategy for the Eastern Barred Bandicoot. The Werribee Open Range Zoo also provides part of the Australasian Species Management Program for Eastern Barred Bandicoots and is part of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Team.  Captive breeding has been carried out at the zoo with 36 breeding pods established to assist in captive breeding success. The Eastern Barred Bandicoot is capable of giving birth to up to five joeys five times a year (with an average of 2-3 joeys each time). So if conditions are right the population can quickly expand.

A significant project at Werribee Open Range Zoo has been the completion of predator proof fencing which now provides opportunity for 190 Ha of secure predator free habitat.

Work has been undertaken to optimise habitat for the Eastern Barred Bandicoot, which includes ripping rabbit burrows, treating the enclosed area to remove foxes and feral cats and restoration of grassland habitat. There is a 5 year strategy to remove rabbits, improve native grassland habitat and gradually reintroduce bandicoots as habitat improves. Thousands of rabbits were removed through the baiting program. Releases into the predator free areas commenced in late 2012 with releases of small numbers planned for 5 different predator free areas within the Zoo during 2015 and beyond. These Eastern Barred Bandicoots will not be as intensively managed by Zoo keepers but a regular trapping program will enable keepers to monitor their condition.

In 2016 Werribee Zoo completed construction on new roofing for their 36 breeding enclosures.  

The Werribee Open Range Zoo has two hand reared Eastern Barred Bandicoots that have been added to the collection for encounters with visitors and VIPs. These two animals are doing an important job advocating this elusive species to visitors and VIPs.

The Werribee Open Range Zoo is also conducting pairing, mate choice preference trials involving about 20 Eastern Barred Bandicoots to maximise the reproductive success. Results released in 2016 indicate that females are choosing mates, and those paired with their preferred males had a shorter time to pregnancy and more pregnancies than other females.

A program to use Maremma dogs to protect Eastern Barred  Bandicoots from foxes is being developed. In 2016 a new set of Eastern Barred Bandicoot enclosures was completed within the Guardian Dog complex at Werribee Zoo. The use of guardian dogs could be a valuable tool to protect bandicoots from foxes and cats and has the potential to expand the number of release sites which is currently limited to sites that have predator proof fencing.

Hamilton Community Parklands 

The Hamilton Community Parklands reserve contains a 100 ha fenced off fox proof area. Population monitoring has been conducted at this site for many decades. Since 2007 a more intensive monitoring program has operated with monitoring three or four times per year.

In 2012 the population was around 120 bandicoots which is higher than previously estimated but may have reached 200 animals in 2011. The population at Hamilton Community Parklands reserve is known to fluctuate considerably with adequate rainfall being a major factor in breeding and holding capacity.  The impact of foxes (even one or two) though the fence can have dramatic consequences on the population.

Despite checks of the predator proof fence 3 times per week foxes were detected breaching the fence in April 2013. The access points were identified and sealed off  and three foxes removed by May. This was the first time foxes entered the area since 2007.

Two harvests of 10 animals each were undertaken in 2013 to support a trail release at French Island and also support Zoos Victoria captive breeding program.

Other works in the broader Hamilton Community Parklands included rabbit warren destruction work funded by DEPI, destroying approximately 20 warrens through the Hamilton reserve, which have been subsequently replanted with grassland species by Conservation Volunteers. Environmental weed management across site to remove gorse and pittosporum was undertaken as well as burning for fire protection and grassland management conducted in January 2013.

Between 2013 and 2015 there were difficulties regarding predator control as foxes entered through protective fencing impacting on the population. During 2015 the Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning together with Conservation Volunteers undertook repairs to the predator proof fence along with monitoring of the fence 3 times per week. 

During 2016, Conservation Volunteers Australia undertook on-ground management of the reserve. With the help of dedicated volunteers, the Glenelg Hopkins CMA and the community the predator proof fence was upgraded and foxes removed. In mid-April 2016, 20 Eastern Barred Bandicoots were released into the reserve; (6) from the Woodlands Historic Park, (6) from Mt Rothwell and (8) from the Zoos Victoria captive breeding program. These bandicoots are doing well in their new fox free environment.

 

See the release at Hamilton Community Parklands.

In November 2016 there were very pleasing results from the population monitoring with 20 bandicoots trapped,  including 5 new animals that were offspring from the April releases. In addition all females caught had pouched young which is a good sign of successful breeding.

 

Mt Rothwell

Mt Rothwell is a 470 ha area of private land dedicated to conservation and is home to the Mount Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre .

Eastern Barred Bandicoots were first released at Mt Rothwell in 2004. Their numbers have steadily grown within the predator proof fence area.

In 2013 the population was competing against an increasing rabbit population due to abundant grass cover but natural predation from native predators combined with a rabbit control programs has seen the Bandicoot population continue to rise from an estimated 300 animals in 2013 to 400 animals in 2014. The 2016 estimates are around 600 Eastern Barred Bandicoots.

The Mt Rothwell team in conjunction with the City of Greater Geelong council Valuing Volcanic Plains program and the work for the dole team has tackled the rabbit problem and now has 80 ha of rabbit free habitat and 122 ha currently fenced with very few rabbits remaining.

In 2016 there has also been an effort to maintain the predator proof fence with funding assistance from DELWP via the Corangamite CMA.

A new research project has been initiated this year, by Melbourne University at Mt Rothwell that will investigate the benefits of breeding a small number of Tasmanian Eastern Barred Bandicoots with mainland Eastern Barred bandicoots to increase genetic diversity.

Mount Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre 

Mooramong 

The Mooramong unfenced population is extinct and no further releases into this unfenced site have occurred in recent years. Mooramong participated in the captive programme in 2013 and held between 2 and 5 animals in a fenced, predator-free pen

Two female bandicoots were relocated from to Mooramong in 2016 as part of the captive insurance program.

Woodleigh School’s Brian Henderson Wildlife Reserve

In 2016 (3) female Eastern Barred Bandicoots were housed at this facility, these are animals that are no longer part of the captive breeding program. More: Woodleigh School's Brian Henderson Reserve.

 

Woodlands Historic Park

Removal of noxious weeds and predator control by Conservation Volunteers at Woodlands Historic Park
A 7 km long predator proof fence being constructed with help from Conservation Volunteers at Woodlands Historic Park
Release of captive bred EBB into Woodlands
 

Conservation Volunteers working in partnership with Parks Victoria completed a 7 km predator proof fence in 2012 which now provides a secure area of about 300 ha for Eastern Barred Bandicoots. During 2012 works focused on a rabbit, fox and feral cat eradication program, followed by on-going monitoring to ensure no foxes were present. The first releases of Eastern Barred Bandicoots were planned for  late spring 2012.

During 2013, 45 Eastern Barred Bandicoots were released with a mix of captive and relocated animals to give the best genetic makeup for successful breeding. Results from the 2013 trapping indicated good weight gain, dispersal rates and breeding. Three new born unchipped bandicoots were recorded in December 2013 which is an indication of good habitat and successful breeding.

Another planned release of captive bred Eastern Barred Bandicoots from the Zoos Victoria and Mt Rothwell occurred in March/April 2014.

Results from the August 2014 trapping were very encouraging with 31 clean skins (natural recruitment to the population), 34 males and  22 females trapped, weighed, checked for breeding condition and released. A very good sign was that 56 pouch young were detected.

During August 2014, four new bandicoots were released from the Zoos Victorias breeding program into the Woodlands population to extend genetic diversity within the population.

Three infrared monitoring cameras have been installed at Woodlands which enable volunteers and project officers to observe the bandicoots acting naturally during the night hours. 

On-going management at Woodlands includes seasonal woody weed removal, grassland habitat planting and rabbit control. An important task is maintenance and monitoring of the predator proof fence.

Now that the population of Eastern Barred Bandicoots is established  a new Eco tour nature wise programs, allowing volunteers to be part of monitoring the Bandicoots is being implemented which includes general cage trappings, camera work and spot light tours.

The Eastern Barred Bandicoot reintroduction project at Woodlands is a significant contribution to the long term conservation of this species. The 2014 the population at Woodlands was estimated to be 200 bandicoots. It was anticipated that by the end of 2015 the population could be around 250 bandicoots but due to a dry hot 2015/16 summer and heavy grazing pressure from rabbits and kangaroos the habitat declined and the bandicoot population did not grow as expected.

Despite poor conditions there were pleasing results from the October 2015 monitoring with 110 individuals trapped and checked. 

During 2016 works are underway to restore the habitat. Including new exclusion plots planted with native grasses to improve habitat quality and temporary shelters/nest boxes placed throughout the reserve to increase nesting opportunities.

By the end of 2016 it was estimated there were 500 Eastern Barred Bandicoots at Woodlands. In April,  95 individuals were caught in the monitoring program. The Spring 2016 monitoring program resulted in the trapping of 132 bandicoots which exceeds the July 2015 record of 114. A pleasing result was that 65 of the bandicoots were born and bred on site and had never been trapped before.  94% of the female bandicoots showed signs of breeding and 93 female bandicoots had pouched young which is a good sign for renewal of the population.

This population will continue to play an important role along with other Eastern Barred Bandicoot projects which have large predator free areas such as at Hamilton Community Parklands, Mt Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre and Werribee Open Range Zoo. 

Help required at Woodlands:

Do you want to play a direct role in saving one of Victoria’s most threatened marsupials?? After losing 99% of their natural grassland habitat the main threat to bandicoots are foxes. This is where we need your help. Patrolling the 7km fence which protects the enclosure from foxes is the key to the bandicoots survival. This task is a great way to enjoy a beautiful walk at Woodlands Historic Park, keep fit, walk your dog, enjoy nature and most important direct action in saving a threatened species. We are creating a roster of regular fence patrollers to support our Project Officer. All Volunteers will undertake a program briefing and training in fence maintenance. Spaces are limited so get involved. No previous experience is necessary, you will be trained in all activities. Learn new skills, meet new people and be part of a fantastic team. Contact Travis Scicchitano, Woodlands Project Officer, Conservation Volunteers, (03) 9326 8250

 

Eastern Barred Badicoot at monitoring station - Woodlands Historic Park, Video from Conservation Volunteers

Serendip Sanctuary

Conservation Volunteers Australia had a Wild Futures project at Serendip Sanctuary, Lara which ended in 2013. With the assistance of volunteers the project enabled refurbishment of facilities to hold and breed Eastern Barred Bandicoots. A 4 hectare octagonal pen which includes seven internal fences was restored. The pen has predator proof skirting around the entire area. Rabbits and weeds were removed and  native grasses and shrubs planted.  During 2013, 11 Eastern Barred Bandicoots were raised and moved to the larger enclosure prior to release. In 2014, Serendip continued to be part of the overall captive breeding program administered by Zoos Victoria with  two breeding pairs being managed by Parks Victoria. In 2016 five females and five males will be moved to Serendip to form part of the captive breeding program. 

French Island

 

A staged release of non breeding Eastern Barred Bandicoots commenced on French Island in July 2012. These releases were part of a trial release of around 20 bandicoots to determine the suitability of French Island as bandicoot habitat. The releases comprised (10 females and 10 sterile males) which were mainly sourced from the Hamilton Community Parklands population.  They were released in two groups of ten animals composed of five females and five males. A program to monitor, survival, movement and dispersal was conducted by Rebecca Groenewegen from Melbourne University. 

The program was completed in 2014 and any surviving bandicoots were captured and returned to Zoo's Victoria. 

Over the past few years Landcare and Parks Victoria have been running a feral cat control program on the island, which appears to be having a positive impact on native bird and potoroo populations. In June 2016, French Island was included in a Federal Government Initiative to be one of five feral cat free islands in Australia.  This initiative aims to remove feral cats from French Island by 2020 which would have significant benefits for the Eastern Barred Bandicoot.

Future of releases of Eastern Barred Bandicoots onto French Island or possibly Churchill Island are under consideration in association with the recovery group and local community groups.

 

Dundonnell

Working towards a new release site in western Victoria - The Eastern Barred Bandicoot recovery team in conjunction with Zoos Victoria, interests from Mt Rothwell and the Green Army has been working At “Tiverton”, an 800 ha private property near Dundonnell, (25 km north-east of Mortlake) to undertake Eastern Barred Bandicoot recovery actions. The site is dominated by basalt 'stony rises', which are lava flows from past volcanic activity. Construction of 17.5 km of predator proof fencing commenced in 2016. This fencing project will eventually lead to the creation of a 700 ha predator free area, creating the fourth and largest Eastern Barred Bandicoot reintroduction site.

The Green Army has also been undertaking the mapping of rabbit warrens and fox dens, as well as carrying out spraying of environmental weeds. Once the area is secure (possibly by the end of 2016) predators can be removed and a new Eastern Barred Bandicoot population can be established  through  releases sourced from populations such as Mt Rothwell. This is a very exciting development for conservation of Eastern Barred Bandicoots and has the potential to significantly contribute to the species on-going survival.

Churchill Island

On Sunday 16th August 2015, Zoos Victoria in conjunction with the Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Team released 16 Eastern Barred Bandicoots  (8 males and  8 females) onto Churchill Island, near Phillip Island. Half of the released bandicoots came from the Zoos Victoria captive population and the other half from Mt Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre where they have been breeding behind predator proof fencing.

A total of 20 Eastern Barred Bandicoots were released onto Churchill Island during 2015 (8 from Zoos Victoria captive populations and 12 from Mt Rothwell.

Release of Eastern Barred Bandicoot at Churchill Island. Source: Zoos Victoria.

 

Churchill Island is only 57 hectares but free from predators such as foxes and feral cats thanks to an on-going predator eradication program by Phillip Island Nature Parks.

Since the original release in 2015 the population more than doubled in size within a year. Breeding started shortly after bandicoots were released with pouch young appearing within a month. Most bandicoots also managed to continue breeding throughout the year despite the dry 2015/2016 summer conditions that were experienced. At least three generations have been seen since their arrival.  

During 2016 the Eastern Barred Bandicoot population at Churchill Island continued to flourish. In August, 58 different individuals were captured, almost 50% more than were caught in June. In addition 37 were unique pouch young.  During the November monitoring the population had continued to grow with 71 unique individuals, 27 of whom had not been captured before. These are very pleasing results for the bandicoot population which is thriving in the fox free habitat of Churchill Island.

This release program is expected to last 10 years, 8 of which will be dedicated to monitoring and refine management techniques. It will hopefully establish a new population and enable monitoring in the wild. Phillip Island Nature Parks will be the main organisation involved with the monitoring program.

Churchill Island updates

Release of Eastern Barred Bandicoot at Churchill Island. Source: Zoos Victoria.

Eastern Barred Bandicoot - Guardian Dogs proposal

Zoos Victoria is currently seeking funding to carry out five-year pilot to assess the feasibility of using guardian dogs to protect Eastern Barred Bandicoots at three grassland sites in Victoria. The first will be located on private property at Tiverton Station, near Dundonnell in western Victoria.

For thousands of years guardian dogs have successfully protected livestock around the world. More recently, Little Penguins in Victoria and Blue Crane chicks in Africa have thrived under the watchful eye of ever-alert canine bodyguards. The potential for these dogs to protect Australia’s threatened species from invasive predators is only just being realised. It is envisaged that guardian dogs could further serve the Eastern Barred Bandicoots (through patrolling the perimeter of feral exclusion zones and mitigating fallout of breaches to the fence).

This proposed project is being led by Zoos Victoria in partnership with Tiverton Properties (an extension of the team at Mt Rothwell with shared owners), the EBB Recovery Team and Tasmania University to evaluate the program. Zoos Victoria’s staff will also monitor and assess the projects performance against the project plan and objectives available upon request) with the guidance and support of Zoos Victoria’ independent scientific advisory committee. Contact: Rachel Lowry, Director Wildlife Conservation & Science, Zoos Victoria, P (03) 9340 2743.

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