Eastern Bettongs go ‘beyond-the-fence’

Released 09/12/2016

Following the successful reintroduction of the Eastern Bettong into Mulligans Flat Woodlands Sanctuary and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, a trial project is underway to establish a population ‘beyond the fence’ in the Lower Cotter Catchment. Latest trapping results indicate the females are breeding.

This highly innovative project is part of a successful partnership between the ACT Government, Australian National University (ANU), the Threatened Species Recovery Hub of the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Programme and Woodlands and Wetlands Trust.

“Over the last three months, the Woodlands and Wetlands Trust, led by a team from the ANU’s Fenner School, has been undertaking a staged trial release of 28 Eastern Bettongs into the Lower Cotter Catchment, representing the next exciting stage of this research project,” Director, ACT Parks and Conservation, Daniel Iglesias, said.
“The animals have been released into the wild, outside the protective confines of a predator proof fence, and initial monitoring indicates the majority of the Eastern Bettongs are surviving and staying in the general release area.

“The project is an example of groundbreaking research to find practical ways to restore our native species to the broader landscape. It will help evaluate the feasibility of beyond-the-fence reintroductions as a conservation measure for Eastern Bettongs and other native species.

“Bettongs are widely regarded as an ‘ecoystem engineer’ for how they turn over the soil. Re-establishing them into the Lower Cotter Catchment helps restore this ecological function within Canberra’s drinking water catchment.

“Extensive work has taken place in the Lower Cotter Catchment to maximise the chance of the release succeeding. This includes significant fox control work by the ACT Parks and Conservation Service in a core area, along with a buffer zone, which has dramatically reduced fox numbers.”

Professor Adrian Manning from the ANU’s Fenner School of Environment and Society and the Woodland and Wetland Trust said the release was possible following the success of the relocation project and intense fox control work since early last year.

“The Bettong population at Mulligans has expanded from 32 to over 200 since the program commenced in 2012. A second, captive breeding population at Tidbinbilla has also expanded from 30 to about 70,” Professor Manning said.

“The Lower Cotter Catchment reintroduction trial is the next step in ACT’s species recovery pathway from specialist breeding facilities at Tidbinbilla to Mulligans Flat and finally release beyond-the-fence and into the wild. The established populations are now of sufficient size to trial reintroductions into other areas of the ACT,” Professor Manning said.

Trial leader Dr Will Batson, from the ANU’s Fenner School, said each Bettong is monitored regularly to assess its health as well as to identify its location.

“Monitoring work will continue and if the program goes well more Bettongs are likely to be released next year,” Dr Batson said.

“Our aim is to increase the size of the population as quickly as possible, while keeping fox numbers as low as possible. The learnings from this collaborative project open up the prospect of the return of the Eastern Bettong to large areas of their former range on the Australian mainland. This will improve the conservation status of the species within the ACT and nationally.”

The public can see bettongs at twilight tours of Mulligans Flat. For more information, visit www.mulligansflat.org.au

Editor’s note: Video footage and photos of the bettongs being released are available upon request.

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Section: ACT Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate | Media Releases

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