The nest-building western barred bandicoot is dependent on our predator-proof fence for survival.
What is Arid Recovery Doing?
In 2000, 11 western barred bandicoots (Perameles bougainville) from Bernier Island in WA were released into a pen in our Main Enclosure. This is the only place outside of WA where western barred bandicoots are found. There are now an estimated 500 individuals in the Reserve. Initially, breeding was stimulated by providing water within a soft-release pen. In 2009, a supplementary release of five individuals from Faure Island in WA was conducted to expand the genetic stock and increase the viability of the population. Mixing the two populations had the desired effect, with a recent study showing the genetic diversity of the current western barred bandicoots is now slightly greater than the founding population.
Range and Abundance
The western barred bandicoot was once found across much of the arid and semi-arid zones in southern Australia, but became extinct on the Australian mainland 100 years ago. Since then it has been confined to Bernier and Dorre Islands in WA. It has also been successfully reintroduced to a few protected sites on the mainland.
The western barred bandicoot shelters in a nest during the day. It constructs this by digging a shallow hollow under a shrub and filling it with leaves and sticks. It is disguised from predators using leaves. Some western barred bandicoots will use the same nest for a week, while others will move to a new nest each night.
Although not as adept at digging as bilbies, the western barred bandicoot uses its strong hind legs to dig below the ground to forage for insects, spiders and worms. It also eats seeds, roots, herbs and other smaller animals. It can use its good sense of smell to detect food up to 30cm underground.
Western barred bandicoots only breed after heavy rainfall. Two or three joeys are born at a time. When a joey is first born, they’re about the size of a tic tac. The pouch is backward opening so that when digging the dirt is not thrown into the pouch. Young stay in the pouch for 45 – 60 days. After two weeks outside the pouch, the young bandicoot is independent of its mother.
Their extinction from the mainland has largely been due to predation by cats and foxes. Other factors include grazing by rabbits and changes in fire regimes. The western barred bandicoot is now listed nationally as endangered, with less than 3000 left in the wild. Another threat to is a Papilloma wart virus. It was discovered on a captive bred western barred bandicoot in 1999. The wart virus, in severe cases, can cause blindness and an inability to walk due to severe warts and lesions. The first bandicoots reintroduced to Arid Recovery had to spend time in quarantine to ensure they were disease-free.