Zoo welcomes new marsupial residents

June 10, 2018 by  

Werribee Open Range Zoo has more animals with stripes than just the zebras on its logo design; some important recent arrivals are 14 Eastern Barred Bandicoots who will play a pivotal role in helping to rescue the stripy marsupials from extinction.

Once widespread in Western Victoria, the population of Eastern Barred Bandicoots declined severely due to introduced predators, such as foxes, and loss of their grassland and woodland habitats. In 1989, these small nocturnal animals were on the verge of extinction and a recovery program was instigated to try and save the species.

Various groups joined together in a three-pronged approach to halt the decline and increase numbers. A captive breeding program is coordinated by Zoos Victoria to maintain a captive population. Other groups concentrate on habitat management and predator control. Raising community awareness is also part of the program.

Conservation Volunteers Australia manages groups of volunteers who create predator-free zones by erecting predator-proof fencing and eradicating foxes and rabbits within the fenced areas so that the grassland can revert to its natural state and provide a good habitat for the captive-bred bandicoots. There are currently three areas in mainland Victoria with introduced populations, plus French Island.

Over 650 Eastern Barred Bandicoots have been bred through the program and released into the protected areas, and it is hoped that this program will, over time, bring the species back from the brink of extinction.