Learning from mistakes: Eastern barred bandicoot(Perameles gunni)

Posted: February 9, 2012 in Conservation
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Here’s something a little different for you all, time to look at conservation. During my studies at University we briefly brushed on a case study involving the Eastern barred bandicoot (Perameles gunni), an adorable marsupial native of Victoria, Australia which became effectively extinct by the 2000’s due to a failed breeding programme. This sparked an interest in me so I looked further into the topic.

Photo of an Eastern Barred Bandicoot taken from australianfauna.com

Between 1982 and 1989 the number of bandicoots in Victoria dropped from 1750 to 400. So in 1991 a breeding programme was set up in an attempt to boost the numbers back to sustainability. It took some time to properly establish the programme as they first needed to get the breeding techniques correct. In 1995 they had successfully (or so they thought) reintroduced a genetically sound colony of 800 bandicoots into the woodland Historic Park outside Melbourne.

All started going down when the park suffered from a long drought taking a toll on the colony. Then as the number of Grey Kangaroos began to increase and eat away at vegetation, the bandicoot’s population further suffered due to increased predation from red foxes now they lacked vegetation cover.
The once sound colony of 800 had taken a drastic hit and by 1999 there were less than 20 bandicoots recorded in the area. In the en only 4 of the original colony were recaptured and the Eastern barred bandicoot was virtually extinct in this area.

There are now only a scare number of bandicoots left in Victoria the majority found in zoos.
With more and more species from across the world facing extinction it is crucial that breeding programmes such as this one are done perfect, in the past there have been several examples such as this where not enough care and planning was put into the programme. With appropriate field management this failure could have been prevented. The Western barred bandicoot faced a similar decline but due to correct management and the use of exclusion fences to protect them from over predation this programme was seen to be more successful.

Techniques are improving and thankfully it seems conservation teams are learning from their mistakes however there is still plenty of room for improvement.

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