Eastern Barred Bandicoot release Churchill Island
Image: Zoos Victoria
Update 1 - 16 August 2015 (release)
Update 2 - 1 September 2015
Update 3 - 25 September 2015
Update 4 - 11 November 2015
Update 5 - 10 February 2016
Update 6 - 14 April 2016
Update 7 - 15 June 2016
Update 8 - 22 September 2016
Update 9 - 14 December 2016
Update 10 - 10 March 2017
Update 11 - 30 June 2017
Update 12 - 27 October 2017 (Includes new release at Phillip Island)
Update 13 - 14 November 2017 (Phillip Island update)
Updates on the Churchill Island Eastern Barred Bandicoot release are adapted from information provided by Dr Duncan Sutherland, Senior Research Scientist, Deputy Research Manager - Phillip Island Nature Parks.
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.
All 16 EBB's have been radio tracked during their first week after release. All individuals have moved day-time nesting sites several times and have been observed moving about foraging freely at night. The map indicates where the Bandicoots have been found. Numbers 1 to 8 are captive animals from Zoos Victoria and 9 to 16 all come from Mt Rothwell.
There has been daily radio-tracking of each animal and trapping to monitor their health and condition.
The bandicoots have been moving around, changing nest locations and seen foraging in pretty much every habitat available to them. There was even an observation of a couple of pairs mating. See their movements across the island since they were released in the map below.
Unfortunately, on Wednesday night the first mortality was found, a female that was part of the captive population bred at Melbourne Zoo. A post mortem conducted by the Melbourne Zoo Vet Department revealed that the cause of death was due to dramatic weight loss and severe dehydration. These events are always unfortunate, but are a reality for animals adapting to living in the wild.
Of the remaining 15 Bandicoots on Churchill Island, the team has been able to successfully trap 11 and all are doing well. The other four are being tracked and have been seen moving around freely.
The majority of captive bred EBBs have recorded some weight loss which is to be expected in the first two weeks after release, though one has put on weight. In comparison, the semi-wild EBBs from Mt Rothwell have all put on weight. Churchill Island life seems to agree with them!
A Mt Rothwell female was trapped and found to be carrying two large pouch young. Another female which has not been trapped yet looks to be carrying pouch young as well.
Updates on the Churchill Island Eastern Barred Bandicoot release are adapted from information provided by Dr Duncan Sutherland, Senior Research Scientist, Deputy Research Manager - Phillip Island Nature Parks.
Radio-tracking of the bandicoots has continued over the last month. The bandicoots have started to explore more of the island, in some cases trekking from one end of the island to the other. Nests have now been found from the north tip to the south. The radio collars have provided great insights into the movements of the bandicoots as they establish themselves in their new home.
Trapping has shown that most of the bandicoots have gained weight since their release and are in very good condition. All three females translocated with pouch young kept their young, some are already young at foot running around and foraging with their mum, plus we have 12 pouch young that originate from Churchill Island. There are plenty of healthy babies on the way!
Eastern Barred Bandicoot on Churchill Island with young at foot.
Tracking collars have been temporarily removed from all the bandicoots to avoid entanglement and will be replaced with a modified design to allow them to break-away in the event of a leg entanglement.
In summary, the population is going extremely well; the bandicoots have made a successful transition to Churchill Island, have put on weight, are exploring most corners of the island and are breeding happily!
The next update will be late October when the next round of trapping takes place.
The Eastern Barred Bandicoots continue to do well on Churchill Island.
The planned release of Eastern Barred Bandicoots to Churchill Island for 2015 was completed on 16 October 2015. In all 20 Eastern Barred Bandicoots were released onto Churchill Is. in 2015; 8 from Zoos Vic. captive populations and 12 from Mt Rothwell.
The last 4 were translocated from Mt Rothwell, all females without pouched young to even up the sex ratio of those already released onto Churchill Island.
Results from recent trapping in late October
All but one of the females initially released onto Churchill were trapped and all had pouch young. Of these young, 7 were large, furred and soon to be young at foot. They’re the first wild born bandicoots on Churchill Island!
Overall, 14 bandicoots were trapped and were in very good body condition, all having gained weight since release. One of these was a sub-adult male who was originally translocated in-pouch from Mt. Rothwell. He had tripled his weight in just over a month since last being weighed. Another generation of Churchill Island bandicoots may not be too far away.
The Eastern Barred Bandicoot population continues to grow and establish itself on Churchill Island.
- Monitoring was conducted in late December 2015 and the end of January 2016.
- In January the team had 59 captures of 23 different individual EBBs over the 4 nights of monitoring.
In this project so far the team have captured 7 bandicoots that were born on Churchill Island and have joined the trappable population; one of these new animals in January was a female carrying 2 pouch young of her own. So, the third generation has arrived!
The Eastern Barred Bandicoot team on Churchill Island recently completed another successful round of Eastern Barred Bandicoot monitoring at Churchill Island. Eight months on, the population continues to grow steadily. In all 30 different individuals were captured, 5 of which had not been captured before this session. The majority of the original founder animals continue to be seen and most of the females captured were with 1 or 2 pouch young. Conditions on the island have stayed good enough over this dry summer that the bandicoots have remained healthy, are breeding and fresh little diggings can be found across all corners of the island.
Results from the June monitoring program found the population has continued to grow with 101 captures of 40 different individuals. This is up from a total of 30 different individuals back in April. The Eastern Barred Bandicoots captured were in good condition and most of the females were carrying pouch young.
The good news is also that 10 months after their release, three quarters of the original founding individuals were recaptured, indicating survival rates are high on the island.
The next monitoring session on Churchill Island will be in August 2016 which will mark the first anniversary of this trial release.
Results from the Eastern Barred Bandicoot monitoring on Churchill Island in August 2016. All up there were 58 different individuals captured, nearly twice as many as were seen in April, plus 37 unique pouch young.
This indicates a good breeding season and a great result for the bandicoot population.
Results from the Eastern Barred Bandicoot monitoring on Churchill Island in December 2016. It is three months since the last Eastern Barred Bandicoot trapping session on Churchill Island and the population has grown further, with 71 unique individuals, 27 of whom had not been captured before. This is up from 58 unique individuals captured back in September. The team also noted that as they work across the island they see plenty of young at foot which are not entering the traps.
Interestingly, only a few of the captured females were breeding, and body condition of the bandicoots was generally lower than in previous sessions, the sort of signs the team might expect if the population were reaching its carrying capacity on the island.
Results from the Eastern Barred Bandicoot monitoring on Churchill Island during the week ending 10th March 2017. The number of unique bandicoots captured reached an impressive 100 individuals, up from 71 last December. More than 40 were captured for the first time during this session. This means another rise in the population size. The interesting development, though, is that breeding seems to have halted; the team encountered no pouch young. Breeding in EBBs is usually depressed at this time of year, but this is a clear indications that the population size growth rate has slowed. This slowing in population size growth rate is expected, but encouraging to see – especially when it’s not driven by predation.
With more captures more teams and more volunteer helpers took part. Duncan extends a big thank you to everyone who helped out and witnessed the bandicoots flourishing on Churchill Island.
The Eastern Barred Bandicoot team on Churchill Island completed another trapping session in mid-June to monitor the population. The results are very pleasing with lots of bandicoot diggings to be found across the island.
Breeding had recommenced with all females carrying pouch young. This was in stark contrast to the complete absence of any pouch young back in March. Of particular note was the capture of almost the same number of unique individuals in June (101) as in March (98), suggesting a stabilising of population density.
The team came across some of the original founding animals, all which are at least 2 years old now and considered very good for an Eastern Barred Bandicoot in the wild.
Eastern Barred Bandicoot history was made on Friday 20 October 2017 in a momentous step in the recovery of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot by releasing 44 EBB’s into the wild on the Summerland Peninsula, Phillip Island. This has been made possible by the recent declaration that Phillip Island is now fox-free (a momentous achievement in itself) and by the hard work of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Team including all its members.
On the night, many of the project partners, local members of our Aboriginal and Torre Strait Islander community, and members of the EBB Recovery Team all gathered to release the animals and celebrate this enormous milestone for the long-term survival of the EBBs.
The release at Phillip Island is based on the success of the trail releases of 20 EBBs on Churchill Island in 2015. Over the last two years this population has increased to 120 individuals.
Eastern Barred Bandicoot release at Phillip Island, 20 October 2017 – Zoos Victoria.
Phillip Island monitoring
Early monitoring results from Phillip Island so far indicate that all 30 of the 44 animals with transmitters attached to their tail have been relocated and are nesting not far their point of release.
Key partnerships made this possibe
This project to save the EBBs is an extraordinary example of successful partnerships, with the EBB Recovery Team comprised of representatives from: Conservation Volunteers Australia, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), Mt Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre, National Trust of Australia, Parks Victoria, Phillip Island Nature Parks, the University of Melbourne, Tiverton Property Partnering and Zoos Victoria. Generous funding support provided by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, the Ian Potter Foundation and Penguin Foundation (for the Fox Eradication Program) also made this release possible.
See also: Zoos Victoria - Full news release
The Eastern Barred Bandicoot team had a successful catch at Churchill Island last week to collect the remaining EBBs coming from there for release to Summerland Peninsula, Phillip Island. In all they trapped 64 and collected 11 females and 6 males for translocation, bringing the total to 20 males and 20 females from Churchill Island and 61 individuals released to Summerlands so far. There are still plans to catch some at Hamilton Community Parklands in the future.
The radiotracking of 30 bandicoots following their release has concluded. The transmitters began falling off the tails of bandicoots after about 1 week. Importantly, no known mortality related to feral cats were detected immediately after release. All of the animals have stayed pretty close to their release site. (see the map below).
Locations of EBB nests from daytime radiotracking fixes (yellow) in the first 2 weeks at Phillip Island; release sites (blue). For scale, the map spans almost 2 km east to west. Source: Phillip Island Nature Parks. The release site is a reclaimed housing estate that has been fully restored to be habitat for wildlife including penguins, shearwaters, wallabies, Cape Barren geese and now eastern barred bandicoots.
The first monitoring session with live trapping of EBBs on Summerland Peninsula was conducted on 13 November 2017. In all, 22 bandicoots were trapped, 13 were sent to our vet team that were out in the field with us where they were tested to see if they have been exposed to the disease Toxoplasmosis (a disease spread in the faeces of feral cats).
Encouragingly, of the 12 females captured 5 had tiny pouch young that must have been conceived on Summerland Peninsula. The good body condition and weight of all the animals also suggests conditions are suiting them in their new home.
On Wednesday 6 December an additional release of 6 Eastern Barred Bandicoots was carried out at Summerland Peninsula, Phillip Island. These animals (5 males and 1 female) were moved from the Hamilton population and along the way received a vet check and Toxoplasmosis disease screening at Melbourne Zoo. This brings the total number of Eastern Barred Bandicoots released on Phillip Island to 67 individuals.
During a three-night trapping session last month 36 of the possible 60 individuals were trapped and released. There has only been one confirmed death since the initial release in October, though it is hard now to detect any mortalities without the transmitters. The next monitoring session is planned for February.
Bandicoot diggings can now be readily found on the peninsula, which is a return of the important ecological function that had been lost on the island with the local extinction of species like potoroos and bandicoots, and is helping to restore the compacted soils in the old housing estate. This is another step in the restoration of this special landscape.
The latest release was made possible through the EBB Recovery Team, DELWP, Conservation Volunteers Australia, Zoos Victoria vet team and Phillip Island Nature Parks.
An Eastern Barred Bandicoot being released on Summerland Peninsula, Phillip Island, December 2017. Image: Phillip Island Nature Parks
The team from Phillip Island Nature Parks, Zoos Victoria and volunteers recently carried out monitoring of Eastern Barred Bandicoots at Summerland Peninsula, Phillip Island. The monitoring was done to check the condition of the Bandicoots which had been released during October, November and December last year. It’s been 3 months since the last trapping session and the team were keen to see how they’ve fared in their new home.
In three nights 32 different individuals were caught – a similar number to the monitoring in November (36) – but interestingly, more females (20) than males (12). Usually it’s the other way around. The animals were in normal body condition, but the very encouraging news is that most females were breeding, only a couple didn’t have pouch young or young in the nest. In contrast, at Churchill Island no females were found breeding at this time which indicates conditions must be good for the bandicoots on Summerland Peninsula.
Again, the team of Zoos Victoria vets took blood samples from bandicoots to test for the disease, Toxoplasmosis. This is a disease that is spread by feral cats and is known to kill bandicoots.
Radio-transmitters were attached to the tails of 24 bandicoots to see where they move over the next 2 weeks and, if they die during that time, to determine the cause of death.
Camera traps have detected at least 3 feral cats in the area, along with bandicoots in the same location, so the bandicoot population appears to be surviving in the presence of some feral cats.
The next trapping session on Summerland Peninsula is due in May when we might start to see some of the young bandicoots entering traps themselves.
Eastern Barred Bandicoot being released during monitoring on Phillip Island. Source: Phillip Island Nature Parks.
Monitoring was conducted at Churchill Island during the second week in March 2018. The previous trapping was 5 months ago when 40 animals were captured for release to Phillip Island. Another 5 were caught for the captive breeding program during January and February. The Team found previous collections did not have a noticeable impact on the Churchill Island population.
The Team found very few empty traps; they captured 99 different individuals on 179 occasions over the 4 nights – much the same as they were getting before the collections. Males outnumbered the females again, there was no sign of breeding (which is normal for this time of year) and body condition was fair. The population continues to do well, and to top it all off they caught five of the original founders 2½ years after their initial release to Churchill Island!
Trial of unique tagging system
An array of camera traps is set across the island to monitor the bandicoot population and to keep an eye on any foxes, cats or rabbits should they make it through our defenses. Unfortunately, the bandicoots can’t be individually identified from the cameras (their stripes are not bar codes) which would make estimating their number much easier. So, it’s impossible to tell if a camera is recording lots of different bandicoots or just one bandicoot lots of times. However, this session Bec Groenewegen started a trial for her PhD by placing a unique tag on 48 individuals that can be seen on the cameras (see photo below). We’re hoping this will allow us to determine how detectable the different individual bandicoots are on cameras and maybe we can build some fancy mathematical models to estimate bandicoot numbers reliably with just cameras.
A reflective tag glued to an Eastern Barred Bandicoot on Churchill Island. The tag reflects a unique number under infrared light emitted from the camera traps.
Volunteers are critical to the success of this project; this monitoring session had 24 volunteers donating 246 hours towards the monitoring and conservation of this species. This is a typical contribution for each session and is not only greatly appreciated, it’s essential to make this program possible. A big thanks is extended to all the volunteers for all their efforts!
The Phillip Island population was founded with 67 individuals, starting with 44 in October, 17 in November and 6 in December. It has now been trapped in November 2017, February 2018 and now May 2018. This newly establishing population still appears to be doing well. In each trapping session the team captured 36, 32 and 38 unique individuals respectively, only two of which have been cleanskins (born and bred on Phillip Island). That’s 53 of the 67 founders that have now been re-trapped. The population has also spread from the release sites and the trapping grid – there are diggings and sightings (observed and on cameras) at least a kilometre from the nearest release point. Meanwhile, since their release in October 2017 there have been 20 feral cats removed from the Summerland Peninsula area, most on the buffer line.
Almost all female bandicoots were breeding in each session (unlike at Churchill Island) and there have been lots of sightings of young at foot. The body condition of animals has been excellent and some have been over 1 kg in weight. During each trapping session, and at the initial release, the Zoos Victoria vet team have bled bandicoots to screen them for Toxoplasmosis, which is disease spread by feral cats. None of the EBBs were positive at release, and none have returned positive so far from the individuals re-tested (26 were tested in May). Either they aren’t contracting the disease, or we never see them again if they do.
Each trapping session the team have also fitted individuals with radio-trackers on their tail to monitor survival for up to 2 weeks, plus they help monitor their spread and identify habitat use. There have been only three confirmed deaths so far, one male who tragically fell into a disused septic tank and couldn’t escape, one roadkill, and one juvenile observed being taken by an unidentified owl.
Again, a small army of volunteers has been invaluable to help monitor this population, both while checking traps and tracking down the radio-transmitters. The radio-tracking was a Zoos Victoria fellowship project carried out brilliantly by Jacinda Goodwin. We’ve been generously supported by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, the Penguin Foundation, Zoos Victoria and Matthew Godson. A huge thanks to everyone!
If you would like to hear about volunteering opportunities with this project in the future, please contact email@example.com
Updates on the Churchill Island & Phillip Island Eastern Barred Bandicoot release are adapted from information provided by Dr Duncan Sutherland, Senior Research Scientist, Deputy Research Manager - Phillip Island Nature Parks.