Herald Sun - - NEWS -

A truf­fle-eat­ing Aus­tralian mar­su­pial known as the rat kan­ga­roo has suf­fered a dra­matic pop­u­la­tion de­cline and could be­come ex­tinct, a re­port warned Thurs­day.

The World Wildlife Fund said only 2500 north­ern bet­tongs re­mained in north­ern Queens­land’s coastal trop­ics, down 70 per cent in the past 30 years.

The north­ern bet­tong are at risk from cats, land­clear­ing and bush­fires, which have be­come more fre­quent and fierce due to cli­mate change.

“With cli­mate change, a mas­sive wild­fire could be just around the cor­ner,” WWF’s Tim Cronin said.

“Any sit­u­a­tion where you have one pop­u­la­tion iso­lated … puts you at a re­ally high risk.” He said it was crit­i­cal to es­tab­lish an “in­sur­ance pop­u­la­tion” and con­sider rais­ing the species’ sta­tus to “crit­i­cally en­dan­gered”.

The noc­tur­nal, rab­bit-sized an­i­mals eat truf­fles, dis­pers­ing truf­fle spores across their habi­tat and main­tain­ing a del­i­cate eco­log­i­cal bal­ance.

A north­ern bet­tong

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