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11 December 2017 Assisted colonisation trial of the eastern barred bandicoot (Perameles gunnii) to a fox-free island
Rebecca Groenewegen, Dan Harley, Richard Hill, Graeme Coulson
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Context. Assisted colonisation has the potential to protect species from intractable threats within their historical ranges. The Australian mainland subspecies of the eastern barred bandicoot (Perameles gunnii) is extinct in the wild, with surviving populations restricted to small sites protected by predator–barrier fences. PVA modelling shows that a self-sustaining bandicoot population would require an area free of the introduced red fox (Vulpes vulpes) of at least 2500 ha. French Island is outside the historic range of the species, but is fox-free and contains around 9000 ha of potentially suitable habitat.

Aims. This study will assess the suitability of French Island as a potential site for a self-sustaining eastern barred bandicoot population by conducting a 1-year assisted colonisation trial to assess habitat use, body condition and survival.

Methods. Between July and September 2012, 18 adult bandicoots were released. We radio-tracked bandicoots using intraperitoneal radio-transmitters for up to 122 days and trapped fortnightly.

Key results. The release group met the three measures of success: (1) appropriate habitat use; (2) recovery of post-release bodyweight; and (3) founder survival exceeding 100 days. Habitat use and body condition throughout the trial reflected that of mainland populations, and seven bandicoots survived longer than 100 days. Mortality was greatest in the first month, with veterinary investigations confirming two deaths due to cat predation, two deaths from toxoplasmosis and one unknown cause of death. Bandicoots that survived longer than 100 days occupied higher, drier ground than those that did not. Toxoplasmosis cases were associated with lower topographic position on the site.

Conclusions. Our results suggest that French Island provides suitable habitat for the establishment of a population of eastern barred bandicoots. On French Island, toxoplasmosis was identified as an important source of mortality in addition to cat predation, and warrants further investigation.

Implications. Given the costs and challenges of predator control and the maintenance of predator exclusion fences, assisted colonisation to one or more fox-free islands remains the most viable option to establish self-sustaining bandicoot populations. Our results highlight the value in conducting trial releases ahead of major translocations.

© CSIRO 2017
Rebecca Groenewegen, Dan Harley, Richard Hill, and Graeme Coulson "Assisted colonisation trial of the eastern barred bandicoot (Perameles gunnii) to a fox-free island," Wildlife Research 44(6–7), 484-496, (11 December 2017).
Received: 3 November 2016; Accepted: 23 June 2017; Published: 11 December 2017
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