News from the Field

Miniature marsupial carnivore a new record for Mt Gibson

21 Jan. 2021
© AWC camera trap

A lone Mulgara has astonished ecologists at Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary, turning up on a camera trap hundreds of kilometres away from any previous record of the species.

It’s a significant find: the first ever record of this small, plucky marsupial carnivore in Western Australia’s wheatbelt region, extending the distribution of the species.

The Mulgara makes a welcome addition to Mt Gibson’s mammal inventory, and hints that these pint-sized predators may have been hiding out under our noses all along.

 

Image B Camera Trap Mulgara Feature © AWC camera trap
The Mulgara was detected on a motion sensor camera trap which is part of AWC’s large-scale array being used to measure feral cat and fox density.

 

The surprise appearance was picked up in a series of images on a motion-sensor camera trap, deployed in 2020 as part of AWC’s extensive feral predator ecology research program at the 132,000-hectare sanctuary.

The images clearly show the robust build and bushy tail that characterise Mulgaras, which are close cousins of quolls and Tasmanian Devils.

 

 

Image C B Leue Fenceline © Brad Leue/AWC
Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary protects 132,000 hectares within the Avon-Wheatbelt and Yalgo bioregions of Western Australia (WA) and is home to the largest feral predator-free area on mainland WA.

 

Mulgaras are nocturnal hunters that live in spinifex-dominated desert habitats across inland Australia.

They shelter in burrows during the day and emerge at night to feed on invertebrates and even small reptiles and mammals.

Research suggests that Mulgaras play an important role as ‘keystone species’, indirectly boosting the diversity of smaller co-occurring marsupial carnivores.

 

 

Olympus Digital Camera © Joey Clarke/AWC
Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary protects a thriving population of Brush-tailed Mulgara in Central Australia, which has been boosted by the protection afforded by the 9,450-hectare feral predator-free safe haven established in 2018.

 

Two species of Mulgara are currently recognised. It is not clear from the camera trap photos whether this animal represents the more widely distributed Brush-tailed Mulgara (Dasycercus blythi) – which has previously been recorded 350 kilometres to the north-east – or the rarer Crest-tailed Mulgara (Dasycercus cristicauda), which has its stronghold in the southern Simpson Desert. AWC’s team of ecologists will undertake targeted surveys in the area.

Elsewhere, AWC protects a significant population of Brush-tailed Mulgaras at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary in Central Australia. This population is thriving following the exclusion of cats and foxes from the 9,450-hectare feral predator-free safe haven established in 2018.

Crest-tailed Mulgaras are found at Kalamurina Wildlife Sanctuary in northern South Australia.

 

Image E Crest Tailed Mulgara Kalamurina © Mark McLaren/AWC
Kalamurina is home to the more elusive Crest-tailed Mulgara.

 

This new record is a significant one for Western Australia – and indeed for the country – extending the known distribution of this charismatic species.

Thank you for your support, which enables AWC’s team in the field to carry out biodiversity monitoring around Australia and to protect places like Mt Gibson, ensuring that unique Australian species like the Mulgara can flourish.

Subscribe to receive our latest news from the field

Latest news from the field

C Kobel/AWC
News from the Field Press Release 14 Apr. 2021

La Niña brought increased rainfall & a boost for native wildlife

Andrew Harvey/AWC
News from the Field Press Release 31 Mar. 2021

Safeguarding the future of the Bilby, Australia’s Easter Bunny

 © Nicolas Rakotopare/AWC