Kowari population holds on despite 18 months of below average conditions

Posted 03 July 2018.

Encouragingly Kowaris were found to be occupying most known refuge areas during a recent monitoring survey in the north of the Sturt Stony Desert, far north-east of South Australia.

The Kowari (Dasyuroides byrnei) is a threatened native marsupial inhabiting the harsh gibber plains of north-east South Australia and south-west Queensland. Small and light greybrown in colour, Kowaris also have a distinctive brush of black hair on the tip of their tail.

Belonging to the Dasyurid family of marsupials, which also includes the Tasmanian Devil and Quoll (native cat), Kowaris are feisty and ferocious carnivores that devour almost anything that crosses their path, from insects to small birds and mammals.

Historical records indicate Kowari populations were once more widely distributed across the desert region of central Australia, however the Kowari distribution has contracted to refuge patches in a much smaller area of the Channel Country and in the past decade or so.

Researchers have been closely monitoring the population and trapping sites are used as part of ongoing population surveys. Sites on Clifton Hills, Pandie Pandie and Cordillo Downs Stations were visited in late May to check on the population. Trapping sites consist of a number of Elliott (aluminium box) traps spaced at 100m intervals, which are baited with a stinky mixture of dog biscuits and fish oil – a proven Kowari tempter!

With well below average rainfall over the past two years, this area (despite recent floodwaters) remains dry. Natural Resources SA Arid Lands Community Ecologist Cat Lynch says despite the dry conditions, a reasonable number of Kowaris were recorded during the survey.

“We captured a total of 24 Kowaris at the Clifton Hills and Pandie Stations sites with none captured at the nearby Cordillo Downs Station sites, and our team of staff and volunteers were reasonably encouraged by the results,” Ms Lynch said.

“While we know that Kowari populations do fluctuate substantially in response to rainfall and the abundance of prey and predators, the total population of Kowaris is in decline, and they do have a highly restricted distribution.”

An icon in the Marree-Innamincka district, Kowari burrows, dug into scattered sand mounds, are prone to degradation and resource depletion when cattle, camels and horses congregate in high numbers, as happens near permanent water sources. Their survival relies on continued good management of their habitat through reducing these impacts through careful waterpoint planning and herbivore management. It is possible that managing feral predators, also attracted to permanent water sources, could benefit kowari populations, and this will be a focus of future research.

The SA Arid Lands Natural Resources Management Board is continuing to implement measures to protect and improve our environment to ensure the survival of many of our threatened native species, including the Kowari.

This monitoring survey was commissioned by the SA Arid Lands Natural Resources Management Board and funded by the National Landcare Program and would not have been possible without the ongoing support of landholders and volunteers who contributed to the study and supported the field surveys.  

kowari monitoring survey field trip May 2018

 

 

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