For years, brush-tailed bettongs, a critically endangered marsupial native to Australia, have lived on isolated nature reserves in Australia, but a new program reintroducing them back to the wild has been met with success.
Wildlife scientists part of a conservation project known as Marna Banggara introduced nearly 120 of these bettongs, also called woylies, to the Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park in South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula, in 2021.
Two year later, scientists started trapping animals, luring in peanut butter and oatmeal, and found that they were mostly newborns. According to a World Wildlife Fund press release ,, populations in this area were flourishing.
According to the results of their monitoring of 85 bettongs, 40% of them were newborns, according to the release. In the pouches of nearly all females they observed, there were also newborns.
Chloe Frick, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Adelaide, told the Guardian that there could be up to 200 woylies in the area.
“It’s surpassing everyone’s expectations,” Frick told the Guardian.
The cute, beady-eyed creature, which usually is no taller than 18 inches and hops on its hind legs like a kangaroo, has been nearly wiped out from Southern Australia over the past 150 years due to habitat loss and the introduction of feral predators like European foxes and cats by colonizers.
As populations decreased from millions to thousands they were only found in captivity or in nature reserves that had been carefully managed. Now, in the York Peninsula experiment, there is hope that more of these critters can be reintroduced to the wild — if conservationists can control feral fox and cat populations in the area.
“If this population can be sustained over time, it would be the first successful reintroduction of this species beyond islands and fenced safe-havens,” Rob Brewster, WWF-Australia’s Rewilding Project manager, said in the press release.
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