Despite a vigorous reintroduction program between 1985 and 2010, numbat populations in Western Australia are either static or declining. This study aimed to document the population ecology of numbats at two sites that are going against this trend: Scotia Sanctuary in far western New South Wales and Yookamurra Sanctuary in the riverland of South Australia. Scotia (64 659 ha) and Yookamurra (5026 ha) are conservation reserves owned and managed by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and where numbats were reintroduced in 1999 and 1993 respectively. Both sites have large conservation-fence-protected introduced-species-free areas where there are no cats (Felis catus) or red foxes (Vulpes vulpes). Numbats were sourced from both wild and captive populations. From small founder populations, the Scotia numbats are now estimated to number 169 (113–225) with 44 at Yookamurra. Radio-collared individuals at Scotia were active between 13 and 31°C. Females had home ranges of 28.3 ± 6.8 ha and males 96.6 ± 18.2 ha, which leads to an estimated sustainable population or carrying capacity of 413–502 at Scotia. Captive-bred animals from Perth Zoo had a high mortality rate upon reintroduction at Scotia due to predation by raptors and starvation. The habitat preferences for mallee with a shrub understorey appear to be driven by availability of termites, and other reintroduced ecosystem engineers appear to have been facilitators by creating new refuge burrows for numbats. This study shows that numbats can be successfully reintroduced into areas of their former range if protected from introduced predators, and illustrates the difficulties in monitoring such cryptic species.
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Vol. 63 • No. 4