Australian Broadcasting Corporation – Anne Barker
The golden bandicoot, a native marsupial, is extinct on the Northern Territory mainland but still survives on one local island called Marchinbar.
It once lived in big numbers over much of the country but it was no match for feral cats and dogs.
But rangers are now trapping some of the golden bandicoots on their island sanctuary and relocating them to hopefully start another colony on another island to ensure their long-term survival.
It has been 35 years since the golden bandicoot was sighted on the NT mainland.
On a recent survey in Arnhem Land, Indigenous rangers laid countless traps but found nothing.
This docile animal once roamed wild across Australia, but with an average weight of just 500 grams, it was no match for the feral cat.
Today, scientists including biologist Dr Carol Palmer, believe the golden bandicoot is close to extinct on mainland Australia.
“The last one was recorded in the desert in the Tanami in about 1952, and the last one in the Top End was recorded in 1972,” she said.
“We’re just not sure really what has happened, but certainly fire, feral animals is one of the main reasons.”
But in 1994, rangers discovered a population of bandicoots on Marchinbar Island off the eastern tip of Arnhem Land.
Uninhabited and pristine, there are no feral cats here, and a pre-European fire regime, all of which have allowed this colony to flourish.
Dr Palmer is leading a mission this month to relocate about 20 bandicoots from Marchinbar to nearby Guluwuru Island to increase the species’ long-term chance of survival.
One ranger helping to catch them is Heather Burarrwana.
“We set the traps up every three o’clock in the afternoon, and then we go up to check them up in four o’clock or five o’clock in the morning,” she said.
“We set up 20 traps. Last time when I was out there with Parks and Wildlife, we caught about 15.”
Once they are captured, the animals are fitted with radio collars, then taken by boat to their new home where Dr Palmer is hopeful there will soon be a whole new generation of golden bandicoots.
“We’re kind of hoping that they will breed up pretty quickly,” she said.
“But hopefully we’ll be able to establish this second population and by doing that, we have then halved the extinction rate for golden bandicoots in the Northern Territory.”