Sur­vey on wa­ter rats

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - Metropolitan -

THE World Wildlife Fund is seek­ing in­for­ma­tion from the public about rakali, or wa­ter rats, at lo­cal wet­lands.

To help pro­tect the species, WWF and the Kens­ing­ton-based Depart­ment of Parks and Wildlife are ask­ing West Aus­tralians to take part in a cit­i­zen science project de­signed to gather im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion about their range and abun­dance.

All sight­ing re­ports will be in­cluded in the Rakali Com­mu­nity Sur­vey, which has re­ceived more than 100 sight­ing re­ports since its launch on De­cem­ber 1.

WWF’s south­west Australia species con­ser­va­tion manager Kather­ine Howard said the sur­vey will be con­ducted un­til March 31.

“Rakali have been recorded at Lake Gool­le­lal and Lake Joon­dalup and also from Loch McNess,” she said.

“We are in­ter­ested in sight­ing re­ports from any lo­ca­tion and would cer­tainly love to hear about any ev­i­dence of rakali found at any other wet­lands in the area.

“If peo­ple are tak­ing hol­i­days any­where with a river, lake or wet­land any­where in WA we are also hop­ing they can keep an eye out for ev­i­dence of rakali while they en­joy their fish­ing, boat­ing or bush­walk­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.”

WWF spokes­woman Sab­rina Trocini said rakali were se­cre­tive but their pres­ence could be de­tected by foot­prints or tail drag marks in mud or sand.

“The pres­ence of feed­ing ‘mid­dens’ can also be a good in­di­ca­tor of their pres­ence,” she said.

“Th­ese are dense scat­ter­ings of shell pieces left be­hind af­ter their meals of crabs, cray­fish or mussels.”

Of­ten mis­taken for black rats, platy­pus and even ot­ters, rakali oc­cur nat­u­rally across Australia, ac­cord­ing to DPAW ecol­o­gist Ge­off Bar­rett said.

“Their pres­ence is con­sid­ered an in­di­ca­tor of healthy wa­ter­ways,” he said.

The wa­ter rats are big­ger than black rats, have par­tially webbed feet, broad, heav­ily whiskered noses and a white tip on their long, thick tails.

Their wa­ter-re­pel­lent fur is dark grey to black on their backs, with paler bel­lies.

Dr Trocini said peo­ple could send in pho­tos of rakali foot­prints or feed­ing mid­dens with the time and lo­ca­tion.

“If you can get out and do a rakali walk, please let us know – even if there was no sign of the species,” she said.

The pres­ence of wa­ter rats is con­sid­ered an in­di­ca­tor of healthy wa­ter­ways.

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