Kate Grarock

Cosmos - - Contents - — DION PRE­TO­RIUS

ECOL­O­GIST KATE GRAROCK is work­ing to make sure a gentle lit­tle mar­su­pial known as the Eastern Bet­tong ( Bet­ton­gia gaimardi) is suc­cess­fully rein­tro­duced to the Aus­tralian main­land from Tas­ma­nia, a cen­tury af­ter it was driven to ex­tinc­tion by feral preda­tors.

Head­ing up the Mul­li­gans Flat Wood­land Sanc­tu­ary in the coun­try’s cap­i­tal, Can­berra, Grarock is re­spon­si­ble for nur­tur­ing and pro­tect­ing bet­tongs that have been born in Tas­ma­nia and trans­ported to their new home.

The work of look­ing af­ter the mar­su­pi­als is a mix­ture of care­ful be­havioural ob­ser­va­tion and brute en­gi­neer­ing. One of the most im­por­tant as­pects of the sanc­tu­ary is the sturdy fence that sur­rounds it, keep­ing out the cats, dogs and foxes that else­where kill mil­lions of na­tive an­i­mals ev­ery year.

Eastern Bet­tongs, how­ever, turn out to be re­mark­ably re­silient in some ways. Grarock and her team have been tri­alling two meth­ods for re­leas­ing the an­i­mals af­ter their jour­ney from Tas­ma­nia.

The first in­volves let­ting them go im­me­di­ately, and the other – thought to be less stress­ful, if more ex­pen­sive – sees the mar­su­pi­als kept in cap­tiv­ity for a while be­fore re­lease. Based on me­tab­o­lites mea­sured in bet­tong poo, the an­i­mals are equally un­fazed by ei­ther method.

Grarock says the lessons learned dur­ing the bet­tong rein­tro­duc­tion will be stud­ied and ap­plied by the Mul­li­gans Flat team to sup­port the rein­tro­duc­tion of other en­dan­gered and at-risk species, in­clud­ing the Eastern Quoll ( Dasyu­rus viver­ri­nus) and the New Hol­land Mouse ( Pseu­domys no­vae­hol­lan­diae).

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