Race against time: Protection and monitoring of a wild population of numbats Wheatbelt, Western Australia
In the dry woodlands of Western Australia, the numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus) is in a race against time, facing pressure from habitat degradation, encroachment and invasive predators. Previously, FAME assisted with the training and use of feral cat detector dogs across the species’ home range; this new project carries on with that vital work, but with a new focus.
Numbats surely are gorgeous creatures – about 40 centimetres long, including the bushy tail, less than one kilo in weight, a striped pelt, a very fine, pointed muzzle and a sticky tongue that vacuums up perhaps 20,000 termites a day.
FAME have committed to work with the Numbat Task Force on an ongoing project spearheaded by Dr Tony Friend. FAME will be providing 20 radio collars to be fitted to numbats within Western Australia’s Wheatbelt and enable DNA testing of a collar should one of these individuals be lost to a predator.
These collars are a critical part of increasing our understanding of this secretive, endangered animal.
Since the 1980s, radio collars have expanded the knowledge of Numbats remarkably including their distribution, dispersal of young, home ranges and most importantly, the impact of predators. For example, between 2010 and 2013 radio collars demonstrated that feral cats had become the most significant predator of Numbats since foxes were controlled. Once cat control was effected, cat predation dropped to a very low level. The new collars will continue that oversight for at least a year. Of course, radio collar monitoring will also identify other causes of Numbat mortality.
This project will also include monitoring on the numbats in the Dryandra woodlands where we have witnessed an increase in the population of numbats following our recent project.
A widening knowledge base supports work to reduce the impact of predatory feral cats and foxes, improve protection of relevant habitat
Entities involved or consulted as part of this project include:
• The Numbat Task Force
• The WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions’
Photo Credit: Rob McLean