The nationally endangered southern brown bandicoot was caught on camera in Kuitpo Forest Reserve near Kangarilla recently, the first sighting in the forest for almost 40 years.
Motion sensor cameras captured the bandicoot in a patch of remnant scrub, following a joint operation between Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges (AMLR) and ForestrySA.
Kuitpo Forest ranger Lennan Whiting said it was suspected that bandicoots were living in ForestrySA land on the southern side of Dashwood Gully, so infra-red motion sensor cameras were set up to take photos day and night. The results were rapid, with the animal photographed within a week.
“This is the first visual confirmation of the bandicoot within ForestrySA land since the Ash Wednesday fires in 1983, and exciting news for all involved,” Mr Whiting said.
Natural Resources AMLR ecologist Elisa Sparrow said the information will help Natural Resources AMLR and ForestrySA manage the surrounding habitat to ensure this threatened native animal is protected.
“It will also help us determine where to focus revegetation and habitat management efforts for the bandicoots,” Dr Sparrow said.
“The sighting took place in native remnant vegetation well suited to bandicoots: stringybark woodland with a dense understorey of mainly bracken and yaccas.
“However, one of the bandicoots photographed was living in blackberry, which, while providing excellent protection from predators, is also a declared weed. For this reason, blackberry removal must be staged and strategic, for example, areas of dense native understorey need to be in place as alternative habitat before blackberry is taken out,” Dr Sparrow said.
An ongoing weed control program for blackberry will now contain the plant rather than immediately remove it, to allow for native vegetation to regenerate.
Natural Resources AMLR staff and members of the Kangarilla Landcare Group have been monitoring bandicoots near Kangarilla and on private land for about 18 months, to determine the extent and distribution of the population in that area.
While it was suspected they were living in this area of forest reserve, with evidence of bandicoot diggings seen last spring, there was no confirmation – until now.
Plans will also be developed in adjacent forest areas to revegetate sites to improve habitat quality and link remnant patches.
This is another positive result of an ongoing conservation partnership between Natural Resources AMLR and ForestrySA staff, Dr Sparrow said.
“Combining our knowledge and resources helps us gather more information on bandicoots and other fauna species in the area. We then strategically plan better for the ecological benefits for this endangered native species,” she said.
Mr Whiting said that ForestrySA has an excellent relationship with Natural Resources AMLR staff and regularly collaborates on biodiversity projects within the forests of the Mount Lofty Ranges.
“Of the total 20,000 hectares of (state) forest across this area, 6,000 hectares is managed solely for biodiversity conservation,” he said.
Mr Whiting said sensor cameras will also be installed in other areas of remnant vegetation within forest reserves to provide a better understanding of the bandicoot’s distribution.