Gilbert’s potoroos head to new island home

Gilbert’s potoroos head to new island home

Four Gilbert’s potoroos have been translocated to Michaelmas Island off the coast of Albany in a move to protect the critically endangered marsupial after a devastating fire swept across the animal’s natural range.

A lightning strike sparked a 1230ha fire at Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve in November 2015 and destroyed most of the Gilbert’s potoroo’s habitat at the reserve.

Parks and Wildlife principal research scientist Dr Tony Friend said after the fires, staff rescued seven Gilbert’s potoroos and undertook emergency baiting to protect the remaining animals as well as noisy scrub-birds, quokkas and western ringtail possums.

The emergency baiting was in addition to routine fox and feral cat control in the reserve under Parks and Wildlife’s Western Shield program and work is underway to conduct targeted on-ground feral predator baiting and control in spring.

A threatened species survey has also been conducted with support from South Coast NRM. 

“Following the fires, Parks and Wildlife moved swiftly to protect the remaining critically endangered Gilbert’s potoroos,” Dr Friend said.

“The rescued animals were held in captivity until a more suitable translocation site could be found and habitat recovered at Two Peoples Bay to allow animals to be returned.”

Dr Friend said Parks and Wildlife had run a trial to test the suitability of Michaelmas Island prior to the release and the department would continue to monitor animals after their release.

“We are optimistic the island will be suitable because it has no native or introduced predators and at least one-third of the island meets the Gilbert’s potoroo’s habitat requirements, including the presence of truffles, which make up 90 per cent of its diet,” Dr Friend said.

“There are always risks associated with managing critically endangered animals but Gilbert’s potoroos do not thrive in captivity and it is vital that we continue investigate alternate locations.”

Prior to the Gilbert’s potoroo rediscovery at Two Peoples Bay in 1994, the species was thought to be extinct, with the last recorded specimens collected in the 1870s.

Mt Gardner harboured the only known wild population of Gilbert’s potoroo but Parks and Wildlife has established new populations at Waychinicup and Bald Island.

Last modified on Wednesday, 13 July 2016 15:10