Monday, July 12, 2010

Numbats – charming and endangered, Part II

By Sharon Wormleaton

Way back in March, I introduced the Numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus) to Art For Conservation blog readers. For those of you who missed the blog, the numbat is a small termite-eating marsupial found in the wild in south-west Western Australia. It once existed across much of southern Australia but predation by introduced animals such as the European red fox, and land clearing lead to the devastating reduction in distribution and population size.

Numbats are listed as endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and there are thought to be less than 1000 mature individuals remaining in the wild. Recovery efforts for the numbat are largely managed by the Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation, and currently include such things as regular fox control at all Western Australian numbat sites; translocation of both wild and captive bred numbats between conservation areas; periodic monitoring of numbats fitted with radio tracking collars; an annual driving survey and an annual radio tracking project. Despite all these efforts, the numbat remains at risk of extinction with feral cats being the main cause for concern at present.

Numbat recovery efforts are currently underfunded. Prior to 2009, funding was readily available through Australian Government grants, but single species recovery has fallen out of favour at the government level, and landscape-based environmental rehabilitation has become fashionable focusing more on habitat quality and threatening processes.

The Wildlife Preservation Society of Australia has kindly offered assistance with respect to raising awareness and much needed funds. One off donations can be made or there is the opportunity to join the monthly donation program for as little as $10. There is also an informative fact sheet for those wishing to learn more about one of Australia’s most remarkable little marsupials.

As far as developed nations go, Australia has the worst record of mammal extinctions and near extinctions. In 2009, Australia quite possibly saw its first mammal extinction in over 50 years with the disappearance of the Christmas Island Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus murrayi), so plenty needs to be done to ensure the same fate doesn’t befall other unique and remarkable animals such as the numbat.

Profits from the sale of Sharon's work on Art For Conservation will also go to numbat recovery efforts.