One of Australia’s most unique marsupials and a species rarer than the giant panda – the Numbat, has been reintroduced to a NSW national park for the first time.
NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean and Australian Wildlife Conservancy ecologists and land managers have just released Numbats into Mallee Cliffs National Park as part of a bold plan to save the species.
“Numbats are a striking and very rare species which once occurred from south-western NSW to south-west Western Australia,” Minister Kean said. “With an estimated population of approximately 1,000 animals remaining, Numbats are rarer than Black Rhinos or Giant Pandas.
“They had disappeared from NSW by the end of the 19th century and today the only remnant population not protected by predator proof fences are in south-west Western Australia.
“This week we have reintroduced a small number of Numbats to the largest fenced cat and fox free area on mainland Australia, in Mallee Cliffs National Park. Following further reintroductions and breeding this population is expected to grow to 270 and re-colonise the landscape, increasing the global populations by over 30 percent,” said Minister Kean.
The project is part of part of a partnership between Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). AWC is leading threatened mammal reintroductions in Australia and has undertaken more translocations of threatened species than any other organisation.
According to AWC CEO, Tim Allard, AWC has established the largest network of large feral predator-free areas across Australia.
“AWC’s feral-free areas protect some of Australia’s largest wild populations of threatened species like the Numbat, the Bilby and the Greater Stick-nest Rat,” Allard said.
“These pioneering Numbats we are reintroducing to Mallee Cliffs come from AWC’s Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary which is proving to be an increasingly important source for large-scale rewilding programs like this,” Allard said.
“Today is an important day for the Numbat – a turning point in the right direction for this rare Australian native. As a national leader in threatened mammal reintroductions, we are proud to partner with the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service to restore biodiversity to national parks and provide new hope for some of Australia’s most endangered wildlife.”
With their red-brown fur and white stripes Numbats have a striking and unique appearance but they are also unique in the world of marsupials. Unlike other marsupials they are active during the day, have no true pouch and are a termite specialist, extracting termites with their long slender and sticky tongue.
The partnership between AWC and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) provides a model for collaboration between the public and private (not-for-profit) sectors. As part of the NSW Government’s Saving our Species program, AWC has constructed a 9,570-hectare fenced area within the national park, the biggest fenced, feral predator-free area on mainland Australia.
This project represents an outstanding ecological ‘return’ on investment for the people of New South Wales: at least 10 regionally extinct mammals will be restored to the region.
Mallee Cliffs National Park protects regionally significant examples of vegetation communities that were formerly abundant in the region, from Spinifex covered sand dunes to old-growth Mallee woodlands. The park provides key habitat for several iconic threatened species and will increasingly become home to more threatened mammal species.