The Numbat is unique among Australian mammals. It is a highly specialised, termite eating marsupial. AWC protects Numbat populations within feral predator-free areas at Yookamurra (SA), Mt Gibson (WA), Scotia (NSW) and Mallee Cliffs (NSW).
AWC protects around 20 per cent of the entire Numbat population, and the only Numbat populations which are not in decline.
AWC’s Numbats are protected within large, feral predator-free fenced areas at Yookamurra (SA), Mt Gibson (WA) and Scotia (NSW) Wildlife Sanctuaries, and at Mallee Cliffs National Park (NSW).
The population at Scotia in western New South Wales is home to the largest population of Numbats anywhere.
Numbats were reintroduced to Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary in 2016, where the population is expected to grow to 240 individuals.
In coming years, AWC will attempt to re-establish a population at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary, in central Australia.
The main threat to Numbats is predation by introduced predators – foxes and cats. This threat of predation is exacerbated by other factors including habitat loss and fragmentation from land clearing, which also makes Numbats more vulnerable to birds of prey such as Wedge-tailed Eagles and falcons.
Numbats grow to about 25 centimetres long (not including the fluffy tail which adds a further 17 centimetres), and have a striking pattern rusty orange and grey-black fur, with transverse white bands across the rump. Numbats were historically found in a range of different habitats from mulga woodland and spinifex sandplains to eucalypt woodlands and forests. They shelter in large hollow logs, or construct a short (one to two metre) burrow with a small chamber at the end. Numbats were found across much of arid and semi-arid southern Australia, however, only two naturally occurring populations remain, both in south-west Western Australia.
Numbats are diurnal, and have an extremely specialised diet comprised almost exclusively of termites. As the sun rises and the day heats up, the temperature of the upper layers of soil increases, and termites move in to a network of shallow tunnels and chambers just below the ground surface. Numbats detect the termites with their acute sense of smell, and use their front paws to scrape away the soil and expose them, before licking them up with their long tongue.
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