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Introducing the Red-tailed Phascogale

Published 26 May 2015 


Angela Sanders (Ecologist): I had a phone call from a colleague in DEPAW (the Department of Enivronment, Parks and Wildlife) and they were looking for somewhere to translocate phascogales, red-tailed phascogales from the wild to another wild site. And because Kojonup is in their old habitat range (although there weren't any phascogales here until we put them here) they were really interested in this reserve - it had wandoo, it had sheoak, it had everything they needed. Plus Bush Heritage has been doing predator control on here for about 18 years and they were really keen that we would look after the animals and that we would do the monitoring afterwards.

These are new nest boxes. They've been up since last May, so almost a year. And this is not their preferred habitat but obviously they're doing really well out here. We put the nest boxes up in the hope that they might move into the area.

The reserve is doing well. They chose the reserve because it's being managed to best practice.

It's been successful.So it's five years on now so we can say that this was a successful translocation and we're now helping other groups that want to translocate to their reserves. The monitoring of doing it here has been really valuable. There are very few foxes here and we've never had a cat recorded on one of our cameras and we've never seen a cat here. But mainly brush tailed possums are the big problem. I have hundreds of photographs of brush tailed possums climbing onto the boxes and trying to get in and they'll push their nose into the hole at the back.

We took these original animals from the wild. They were from four nature reserves further north in the wheat belt, where there's a lot of phascogales. So we caught 20 on the first trip and 10 on the second, and transported them down here and let them go.

These have all been bred on the reserve and they use these nest boxes extensively and I think they're a key to the success of this translocation. We've redesigned them so that they're more red-tailed phascogale friendly and we also have techniques now, which other people are going to be following. Such as putting wool in the box so that they can't get out and putting a net over the top and gently pulling them out of the boxes and then releasing them back into the boxes.

They seem to be more savvy when they're bred out in the wild. When they're captive bred they're often not quite so predator aware and they can get eaten by foxes and cats pretty readily.

They're territorial and the females will come back to the same nesting site year after year and probably have three or four that they use. Whereas if they're bred at the zoo, they're being released a long way from where they were born and in a totally unfamiliar surrounding.

I think one of the things about the success of this translocation is we put all the boxes up before we brought the animals down here and they were released into the boxes, right from day one. So they had that security of having somewhere to go if a predator was chasing them. I think that's had a lot to do with the success of this translocation. As well as the fact that it's really good habitat.

It probably hasn't had phascogales on here for 50 or 60 years. So it's really good to put them back here and they're thriving.

Thanks to all our Friends of the Bush for making programs like these possible.

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