Parks Australia and Wreck Bay Traditional Owners are celebrating confirmation of a Booderee-born long-nosed potoroo joey after it was caught on camera.
This is the first time the joey of a long-nosed potoroo has been spotted in the area since the 1910s.
Potoroos were reintroduced to Booderee National Park in 2014 and 2015 as part of a program to re-establish the locally extinct species.
Booderee National Park Conservation and Country Manager Nick Dexter said this was the first long-nosed potoroo joey confirmed since the reintroductions.
“The father of the joey we’ve spotted on camera is probably Notchy, our most famous long-nosed potoroo in Booderee,” Dr Dexter said. “We have been watching him for years, and we weren’t sure whether he had any female companions. But this is pretty strong evidence to show that he does.
“We’re really proud of the resilience of our long-nosed potoroos after a wildfire went through their entire release site in 2017. At the time we were worried we’d lost them all but they appear to be hopping back.
“Long-nosed potoroos can live for about 12 years and breed much slower than the two other mammals we’re reintroducing.”
Booderee National Park is in the process of reintroducing three locally extinct species– long-nosed potoroo, eastern quolls and southern brown bandicoots.
“We’ve made enormous strides with all three of our reintroductions,” Dr Dexter said. “We’ve found all three species can survive the shock of being relocated, they can learn to find food, they learn to avoid foxes and dogs, they can survive paralysis ticks, and they can also breed and rear young.
“These are all key steps to establishing sustainable populations and it provides a strong foundation of success that gives us confidence all three species will ultimately reclaim this part of their former range.
“We believe the southern brown bandicoots may already have a sustainable population in the park as an individual was seen on camera 3.5 kms from their release site.
“Meanwhile, next steps for our eastern quoll reintroduction are underway. While a sustainable population has not been established in our first reintroduction attempt, we believe we’re on the path to achieving that goal.
“This program has been challenging and we had our last eastern quoll sighting in January this year. Sadly, seven joeys born in late 2020 were confirmed dead - two domestic dog attacks, two died from a fox and three other confirmed deaths were unknown.
“There were three adult females still in the park in late 2020 but they have reached the end of their three-year lifecycle and are presumed to have died of old age.
“While a sustainable quoll population has not been established in our first reintroduction attempt, we believe we’re on the path to achieving that goal.”
Shane Sturgeon, a member of the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community and Booderee National Park ranger, said long-nosed potoroos, eastern quolls and southern brown bandicoots were once an important and abundant species for the local Traditional Owners.
“Our people recognise the important role these animals play in the health of our country,” Mr Sturgeon said. “I’m glad to see our intensive fox control over almost two decades means we can bring these important native species back to Booderee.”
Parks Australia’s plans to reintroduce all three species continue to develop. The reintroductions at Booderee National Park will be evaluated this year. This independent evaluation will help inform next steps for the programs and help Parks Australia ensure the establishment of sustainable populations for all three species remains on track.
Following the review, adapting reintroduction programs to further increase survival rates may take place. For example, a proposal to fence off areas within the park to produce ‘hardened’ eastern quolls could be adopted.
Almost two decades of intensive fox control at Booderee National Park has given these species a chance to return to the area.
Discussions with Traditional Owners and key stakeholders will continue to ensure we give all three species the best chance of success on their journey home to Booderee National Park.
Small mammals such as bandicoots, bettongs and long-nosed potoroos perform a vitally important function in forest ecosystems. They consume large amounts of hypogeal fungi which are better known as truffles. The truffles are high in nutrients and have a strong smell. The small mammals are attracted to these truffles and eat them and then deposit the spores from the fungi in their faeces. As the scattered spores grow into fungi they form a mutually beneficial relationship with forest trees. When the fungi infest the roots of trees, the trees provide water and carbon to the fungi and the fungi extract nutrients from the soil for the trees. Scientists believe this is probably the reason why large trees were able to grow at Booderee despite the very poor soil. Reintroducing the potoroos may help spread these beneficial fungi further and more efficiently through Booderee’s forests.
Long-nosed potoroos were present in the area for thousands of years before the introduction of foxes because of their abundant presence in Aboriginal middens dating back to historic times. Adult long-nosed potoroos weigh up to 1.6 kg, live up to 12 years and have a head and body length of about 360mm and a tail length between 200-260mm. Their fur is greyish brown on their backs and light brown on their belly.