Cosy at Kojonup

Friday 21 September, 2012

Our supporters helped a group of tiny nocturnal marsupials find a new home on Kojonup Reserve in March 2010. Two years on, we report on the phascogales’ progress.

Bush Heritage ecologist Angela Sanders with phascogale in hand Bush Heritage ecologist Angela Sanders with phascogale in hand. Photo: Geoff Corrick

Once widespread throughout Western Australia, the red-tailed phascogale is now an endangered species, restricted to a small area in the state's southwest.

A new home

Bush Heritage partnered with the WA Department of Environment and Conservation in 2010 to give these small, vulnerable marsupials a new home.

The Department chose Kojonup Reserve as the new home for 30 of these tiny, pouched creatures, largely because your ongoing support of feral animal control gives them a chance to breed and a better chance at survival.

Two years later Bush Heritage ecologist Angela Sanders and volunteer Geoff Corrick headed out for their annual population monitoring survey.

During the five days of their survey, Angela and Geoff recorded eight phascogales in the she-oak woodlands where the phascogales were released, seven of which had not been captured before. One phascogale was found in nearby wandoo woodland - appealing habitat for a phascogale, with hollows that are ideal for nesting and a plentiful supply of insects for food.

Wandoo woodlandWandoo woodland - ideal phascogale habitat. Photo: Geoff Corrick

It was the first time Geoff had worked with animals, and he relished the chance. He applied the skills he'd used monitoring vegetation and soils on other Bush Heritage reserves, to the phascogale monitoring. "I'm keen to just help preserve what we have - and I wanted to take the opportunity to get out into the bush and learn," says Geoff.

Geoff and Angela laid out traps, enticing the phascogales with five-star treatment - wrapping the traps in gladwrap in case of rain, leaving baits of peanut butter and oats, and a ball of alpaca wool for warmth.

They monitored the traps and checked the artificial nesting boxes for droppings and sleeping phascogales. Geoff took the chance to study the endangered creatures up close. "They've got beautiful little feet. You can see right through the skin - the feet look like they're all tendons."

Wandoo woodlandWandoo woodland. Photo: Geoff Corrick

"The phascogales seem to have taken well to their new environment," says ecologist Angela Sanders. "This is a long-term project though, so it will be a while before we can know for sure that they will survive. Control of feral animals is a key part of helping to protect the phascogales. Just one or two foxes can threaten the entire population."

Angela will return for at least three annual surveys to determine whether the translocation has been a success. Thanks to you, the phascogales are safer in their homes at Kojonup.

"Given that we've done such a lot of damage to our native species," says Geoff, "it's about trying to preserve what's left."

How your support is helping phascogales

  • Monitoring and maintaining the health of wandoo woodland, appealing phascogale habitat
  • Baiting prevents rabbits from eating sheoak seedlings, which attract insects and other food sources for phascogales
  • Controlling feral predators, such as foxes and cats

Thank you

Thanks to your generous response to our recent feral animal campaign, vital feral control work is underway to protect animals like the phascogale at Kojonup and the critically endangered red-finned blue-eye at Edgbaston Reserve, Queensland. Thank you!

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