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Western Barred Bandicoot
Range and abundance
As with many species of Australian mammals, the distribution of Western Barred Bandicoots has contracted dramatically since European settlement. The species was once common over much of the southern arid regions of Australia: from half-way up the coast of Western Australia and across the Nullarbor Plain, to arid and semi-arid regions in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. Western Barred Bandicoots became extinct on the mainland by the 1940s, surviving only on Bernier and Dorre Islands in Shark Bay, off the coast of Western Australia. The combined population estimate for these two islands is 2200 – 4400 individuals, numbers fluctuating with rainfall. The species has been successfully reintroduced to AWC’s Faure Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Shark Bay and to a fenced feral predator-free area at ‘Arid Recovery’ in South Australia; numbers have increased to several hundred individuals in each reintroduced population.
Western Barred Bandicoots are the smallest species of bandicoot, weighing approximately 220 g. Animals are lightly built, have a long, pointed snout, large erect ears and a short tail that is sometimes lost in fights with other members of their species. The fur is a light grey-brown, with two or three dark bars running across the hindquarters. The chin, underbelly and feet are white.
The Western Barred Bandicoot is a solitary, nocturnal animal that shelters by day in nests of litter under shrubs. Animals are omnivorous, consuming a wide variety of invertebrates, some plant matter and, occasionally, skinks and mice. Each year, females are capable of raising up to four litters, each of between one and three young. Breeding is largely seasonal, triggered by the first substantial autumn rains, but can occur at any time of year when environmental conditions are good. Western Barred Bandicoots can live for at least four years in the wild. Their main native predators are raptors, owls, goannas and snakes.
The primary causes of the disappearance of Western Barred Bandicoots from the mainland are thought to be predation by foxes and feral cats: these threats are rated as ‘catastrophic’ to Western Barred Bandicoots by the Mammal Action Plan (Woinarski et al. 2014). In the past, modification of vegetation by land clearance, rabbits, stock and changed fire regimes would have accelerated declines. Current threats include the risk that feral predators will gain access to island or fenced ‘mainland island’ poplations; climate change (particularly a reduction in rainfall) may adversely affect populations in Shark Bay.
What is AWC doing?
AWC successfully reintroduced Western Barred Bandicoots to Faure Island in 2005. AWC ecologists conduct extensive monitoring programs, employing techniques such as spotlighting and trapping, to monitor the abundance of this population. A reintroduction of Western Barred Bandicoots is also planned for Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary; because of the large size of the feral predator-free enclosure on Mt Gibson, it is estimated that this project will increase the global population size of the species by 30%. AWC contributes expert advice to the Shark Bay Marsupials Recovery Team, which oversees nation-wide conservation efforts for Western Barred Bandicoots and other species.