Expanding Knowledge: Understanding Numbat Behaviour to ensure their survival
To protect and grow populations of endangered species, we need to understand their behaviour, life cycles and threats. For the Numbats in Western Australia's Dryandra Woodlands National Park, this means the continuation of our radio-collar program, which has fed vital information back to researchers about what is endangering these native marsupials.
ABOUT THE NUMBAT
Numbats are one of Australia’s most threatened marsupials, being listed under the EPBC Act and the IUCN Red List as Endangered. As with many native species, their main threats are feral predators and loss of habitat through land clearing.
Known as the Noombat in the Nyungar language, and Walpurti in the Pitjantjatjara dialect, they are a small predator weighing less than one kilogram and featuring a striped pelt, a very fine, pointed muzzle and a sticky tongue that vacuums up 20,000 termites a day! At around 40 centimetres long including the bushy tail, they are not much bigger than an average male foot!
Being one of only two diurnal marsupials - active during the day rather than night - they are a special addition to Australia’s incredible biodiversity. Whilst sitting within the same order as other carnivorous marsupials (Dasyuromorphia), numbats are only distantly related to animals like quolls and the Tasmanian Devil and are actually more closely aligned with the extinct Thylacine!
They are the sole member of their family, Myrmecobiidae, which studies suggest puts their impact on phylogenetic diversity loss as far greater should they go extinct - just one more reason they need to be saved.
Numbats will be radio-collared in the wild, in an expansion of our existing successful monitoring partnership with Numbat Task Force. Previous tracking has provided increased knowledge around Numbat distribution, dispersal of young, home territories and - most importantly - predation events.
Following sustained feral cat control in Dryandra, this monitoring has shown cat predation of Numbats has to dropped to very low levels.
This new project is significant due to its continuation of successful work previously. It also has the potential for expansion into other reserves where numbats have been reintroduced in Western Australia such as Dragon Rocks Nature Reserve, Batalling State Forest and Boyagin Nature Reserve.
In this continuation of our successful Protection and Monitoring program, Numbat Task Force and research scientist Dr Tony Friend will collar wild numbats within the Western Australian Wheatbelt. Monitoring takes place using radio-tracking technology, and when an individual is located, the following is recorded:
- Status (alive or deceased)
- GPS fix
- Unique Log Number of sighting is assigned
As part of this research, young Numbats will also be collared to inform knowledge of survival rates, and collared individuals remain in the program for their length of life.
When a predation event has occurred, and the predator cannot be easily identified, a swab from the collar is taken and sent for DNA testing. This is a critical aspect as, should there be a rise in cat and/or fox predation on the Numbat population(s), this enables more effective policy for conservation initiatives like cat control through baiting.
PREVIOUS WORK TO PROTECT THE NUMBAT
In 2018 FAME worked with the Australian Government’s Threatened Species Commissioner, the WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, and the Numbat Task Force to use conservation dogs trained in feral cat detection. This was followed by a partnership with Numbat Task Force to radio-collar a number of wild Numbats in order to increase our understanding in key areas, including causes of death.
A MESSAGE FROM OUR PARTNERS
John Lawson and Rob McLean from the Numbat Task Force have passed on their thanks to the fantastic community of FAME donors, helping to enable this work:
“We would like to thank FAME for their continued support of the Numbat Task Force, and the numbats, but most of all we would like to thank you - the donors. Without your kindness, care, and compassion for our wildlife, without you, FAME would not be able to fund the important work they are supporting across Australia for our threatened fauna and flora.”
WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT
Numbats are iconic, unique marsupials that fill an important niche in Australia’s ecosystems. They were previously found across southern Australia, from WA to NSW. Now, they are restricted to two remnant populations including the focus of this project: Dryandra Woodlands. Please consider a tax-deductible donation today to help make this project possible.
Images: Rob McLean/Numbat Task Force