Endangered Southern Brown Bandicoot discovered at St Helens

26 February 2013

The Basalt to Bay Landcare Group is ecstatic at the discovery of the endangered Southern Brown Bandicoot in a nature reserve at St Helens near Port Fairy in south west Victoria.

The Southern Brown Bandicoot is a marsupial that prefers scrubby, low lying vegetation and feeds on a variety of insects, fungi and plants. It has become endangered due largely to loss of habitat and introduced predators.

The Landcare Network purchased fauna cameras with a $10,000 grant from Pacific Hydro’s Codrington/Yambuk Sustainable Communities Fund with the aim of ascertaining if the Bandicoot lived in the Parks Victoria managed St Helens Reserve.

“The results are beyond terrific,” said Network Facilitator Lisette Mill. “Confirmation of these animals in this small reserve adds weight to our efforts to ensure such island populations are preserved and supported to re-colonise areas they have been lost from within the region.”

“This will in-turn help to ensure this important fauna species and the reserve itself is retained for future generations. Without new breeding links, the St Helens animals will eventually die out,” said Ms Mill.

The discovery of the Bandicoot also means that St Helens Reserve will be recognised as an important habitat.

“It is hoped that this will stimulate local and national investment from people seeking to learn more about this wonderful place,” said Ms Mill.

To attract the Bandicoot to the cameras the surveyor, Peter Austin from Landtech Consulting used unexpected bait. “Peter used truffle oil because Bandicoots love fungi and it was unlikely to attract pest animals like foxes. Truffle oil continues to emit a scent while remaining uneaten by other animals – although it did seem to cause a fair bit of excitement to possums, two species of wallaby and even an echidna!” explained Ms Mill.

The cameras will now be moved to other nearby properties and be part of a community training day to teach others how to make the most of this technology.

The group is hoping to expand on the surveys by progressing a local fox control program and purchasing web-enabled cameras and a white flash video to film in colour at night.

“These additional resources would enable a more comprehensive management plan to be completed and allow people world-wide to participate in the activities of the St Helens Reserve without impacting negatively on the site – although the local leaches would certainly enjoy more warm blooded visitors!” said Ms Mill.