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).