The Julia Creek dunnart Sminthopsis douglasi is a small, carnivorous marsupial belonging to the family Dasyuridae. There are 19 species of dunnarts in Australia with two of those species extending into Papua New Guinea. Only S. douglasi is confined to Queensland.
Current species status
Sminthopsis douglasi is listed as ‘Endangered’ under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992.
Habitat and distribution summary
Sminthopsis douglasi is restricted to the Mitchell grass downs country of north-west Queensland. The region is characterised by predominantly grass-covered cracking clay soils of two types (ashy and stony). Sminthopsis douglasi is found on both soil types sheltering in cracks when the soil is dry and ground cover is sparse, and in vegetation when the cracks close up after rain. Prior to 1992 S. douglasi was known only from four specimens collected in a limited area between Richmond and Julia Creek in north-west Queensland. Surveys conducted since, indicate a wider distribution within both the Mitchell Grass Downs and Desert Uplands Bioregions, although occurrences of S. douglasi were patchy and abundances low.
Threats for this species have been summarised as ‘not known although factors including introduced predators (especially cats) and current land use (sheep and cattle) may be implicated’ (Maxwell et al. 1996). More recent studies have improved understanding of the known and potential threats to this species. Introduced predators (feral cats), woody weeds (prickly acacia) and land use (grazing) represent the key threats, while potential threatening processes include fire, climatic factors and small population size.
To secure and enhance the species status in the wild through an on-ground conservation management program that targets known threats and an integrated program of investigations to improve knowledge and inform management decisions.
Summary of actions
The key actions required to promote the recovery of S. douglasi populations include:
- conduct surveys to clarify the extent of the species distribution;
- negotiate voluntary conservation agreements/management agreements for key S. douglasi sites and encourage landholders to protect and manage such sites;
- integrate S. douglasi habitat into local government Stock Route Network Management Plans;
- continue and expand implementation of pest animal and plant control programs (e.g. cats, prickly acacia), and S. douglasi population monitoring programs;
- investigate interactions between predators, water sources and grazing management;
- investigate interactions between S. douglasi and sympatric species of small mammals;
- conduct media campaigns and continue to produce/distribute educational material; and
- establish a recovery team with representatives from key stakeholder groups and develop consultative protocol for Traditional Owner engagement.
- The total estimated cost of implementing recovery action is $510,000.