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New hope for the Gilbert’s potoroo

Photo- Dick Walker/ Gilbert's Potoroo Action Group
Photo- Dick Walker/ Gilbert's Potoroo Action Group

The critically endangered Gilbert's potoroo has been given another reprieve from extinction, following promising results from two trial translocations to Middle Island, east of Esperance.

The trials were carried out to assess the suitability of the island for the establishment of a new population.

The species was believed to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1994 at Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve, near Albany. In the following years, new populations were set up close by on Bald Island and in a fenced enclosure in Waychinicup National Park.

In 2015, however, a lightning strike sparked a 1,230 hectare fire at Two Peoples Bay, destroying 90 per cent of the potoroo's habitat at that location.

Following the fire, the then Department of Parks and Wildlife moved swiftly to protect the remaining critically endangered Gilbert's potoroos.

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.

In 2016, the Federal Government's National Landcare Program provided Albany-based community group Gilbert's Potoroo Action Group (GPAG) with a $250,000 grant to establish another population on an offshore island.

Two four-week trial translocations - one in winter and one in summer - were carried out over 2017 and 2018 to assess the suitability of Middle Island to support the marsupials.

Comments attributed to Environment Minister Stephen Dawson:

"During each trial, a group of four potoroos were released onto the island for a four-week period and closely monitored.

"Results from the trial are very encouraging and have shown that the island habitat will be able to support a potoroo population.

"The translocations were a collaboration between the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, and the GPAG."