An experimental translocation of brush-tailed bettongs (Bettongia penicillata) to western New South Wales

A total of 85 brush-tailed bettongs (Bettongia penicillata) from Western Australia and two sites in South Australia were translocated to Yathong Nature Reserve (YNR) in western New South Wales in October 2001. Aerial baiting to control the introduced red fox (Vulpes vulpes) had been undertaken on YNR since 1996. Thirty-one bettongs were fitted with radio-transmitters at the time of release, and two subsequently. Trapping took place at irregular intervals after the translocation. In all, 73% of telemetered bettongs died within the first six months; all were dead within 13 months. Eight bettongs died within the first eight days immediately following their release, due to causes other than predation. These eight all originated from St Peter Island (SPI), South Australia. A low incidence of breeding on SPI supports the belief that this source population was in poor condition and unsuited for translocation. Overall, 19 of the 33 telemetered bettongs were killed by predators: 14 (74%) by feral house cats (Felis catus), two (11%) by birds, and three (16%) by predators, which, although they could not be fully identified, were not foxes. One month after release, surviving bettongs weighed less than they did at the time of their release (mean decrease in mass = 9.7%, range 2.6–22.4%, n = 11). Within two months of their release most had regained any lost mass (mean change in mass since release = –0.3%, range –5.9 to 10.5%). Food resources on YNR appeared sufficient to sustain adult brush-tailed bettongs, despite a period of severe drought. Small pouch young present at the time of release were subsequently lost. Females gave birth and carried small pouch young (up to 50 mm), but no young-at-foot were recorded. Bettongs did not disperse further than 10 km from their release site. Overall, 50% of aerial-tracking locations were no further than 3.2 km from the release site, and 92% no further than 7.0 km. This experimental translocation of brush-tailed bettongs failed due to predation by cats. It demonstrated that foxes were no longer a threat to wildlife on YNR and identified cats as the major impediment to the restoration of locally extinct fauna.

Author Priddel, D. and Wheeler, R.
Year 2004
Secondary title Wildlife Research
Volume 31
Number 4
Pages 421-432
Region NSW