Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Endangered
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, this species had a recovery plan in force at the time the legislation provided for the Minister to decide whether or not to have a recovery plan (19/2/2007).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans Recovery Plan for the Northern Bettong Bettongia tropica 2000-2004 (Dennis, A.J., 2001) [Recovery Plan].
 
Other EPBC Act Plans Threat abatement advice for predation, habitat degradation,competition and disease transmission by feral pigs (2013) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2014p) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
Threat Abatement Plan for Predation by the European Red Fox (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2008zzq) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened mammals. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.5 (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2011j) [Admin Guideline].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
QLD:Northern bettong (Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP), 2013ao) [State Species Management Plan].
Non-government
    Documents and Websites
The action plan for threatened Australian macropods 2011-2021 (World Wildlife Fund for Nature - Australia (WWF), 2011).
State Listing Status
NSW: Listed as Extinct (Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (New South Wales): August 2014 list)
QLD: Listed as Endangered (Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Queensland): May 2014 list)
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Endangered (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
Scientific name Bettongia tropica [214]
Family Potoroidae:Diprotodonta:Mammalia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author Wakefield,1967
Infraspecies author  
Reference  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images
http://www.qmuseum.qld.gov.au/nature/endangered/html/bettong.html

International: Listed as Endangered under IUCN Red List categories (IUCN 2007).

Scientific name: Bettongia tropica

Common name: Northern Bettong

Other names: Tropical Bettong

Northern Bettongs are similar in appearance and genetics to Woylies, Bettongia penicillata, from Western Australia. The relative taxonomic status of the two species has undergone several changes. Currently they are considered two distinct species (Winter 1997). The north-eastern Australian population is sufficiently isolated in distance from other populations to warrant treating it as a separate entity for management purposes (Dennis 2001).

The Northern Bettong is a small, grey, lightly-built marsupial with a low, springy hop. It grows to an average body length of 31.3 cm and its tail grows to 34 cm. This bettong has an average weight of 1.2 kg (Strahan 1998).

Historically, the Northern Bettong occurred in Queensland, from Rockhampton to the present northern distribution near Cairns (Laurance 1997; Wakefield 1967). It occurred on Mt Windsor, Mt Carbine, the Lamb Range, near Rockhampton, near Ravenshoe (Johnson & McIlwee 1997), in the Paluma Range (Pope et al. 2000) and two individuals were found on a property at Mt Zero, north-west of Townsville (Herald Sun 2002). The Northern Bettong currently occurs in three geographically isolated locations: the Lamb Range, Paluma and Mt Zero, Queensland. Mt Windsor Tableland was known to have an existing population as recently as January 1989. However, despite considerable effort (520 trap nights; 44 hours of spotlighting, Winter 1992), no Northern Bettongs have been seen since this time.

Northern Bettong distribution appears to be limited by the availability of hypogenous fungi (truffles) and potentially, cockatoo grass, Alloteropsis semialata, and lilies, Hypoxix spp., all of which are critical food resources (Johnson & McIlwee 1997). The distribution of these resources appears to be limited by vegetation associations with fire. Areas that remain unburnt in the tall, wet sclerophyll forest component of Northern Bettong habitat soon lose some or all of these resources (Dennis 2001).

The Northern Bettong occurs in three (possibly four) disjunct locations. They have disappeared completely from two of their previous known locations, Dawson Valley and greater Ravenshoe area (Dennis 2001).

There is a captive population of the Northern Bettong at Pallaranda, near Townsville (Johnson & Delean 2001).

Previously-known populations of the Northern Bettong have been surveyed (Laurance 1997). Northern Bettongs once occurred in the greater Ravenshoe area, an area at least as large as the current Lamb Range populations (Winter 1997). However, despite considerable search effort (2120 trap nights, D. Storch pers. comm. 1998, cited in Dennis 2001), no Northern Bettongs have been captured there in recent times. Climate mapping has been used to try to locate other populations (Carpenter et al. 1993).

There are no total population estimates for the Northern Bettong (Winter & Johnson 1995). Of the four possible remaining sites: two (Mt Carbine and Paluma) are extremely small with only three to eight individuals known and insufficient data to be able to estimate a total population. One site (Lamb Range) appears well populated (Dennis 2001).

The Lamb Range population is the largest (Johnson & McIlwee 1997). The species persisted in small areas on Mt Windsor and Mt Carbine until the early 1990s (Johnson & McIlwee 1997), but recent surveys have failed to locate Northern Bettongs anywhere other than the Lamb Range, Paluma and Mt Zero. Genetic studies have been undertaken and there is evidence of a high level of genetic variation overall with limited gene flow between sub-populations.

The Northern Bettong is declining, mainly due to range contraction (loss of subpopulations) (Laurance 1997).

The population of the Northern Bettong at Mt Zero is on a 40 000 ha former cattle property, recently bought by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy for the purpose of conserving Northern Bettongs (Herald Sun 2002).

The preferred habitat of the Northern Bettong is tall and medium open eucalypt forest with grassy understorey (Harrington & Sanderson 1994; Maxwell et al. 1996). These habitat types occur as a narrow fragmented strip along the western edge of wet tropical rainforests. The species has been reported to occasionally use wetter forest types including rainforest (Maxwell et al. 1996), but these are probably due to occasional forays by individuals into this habitat from adjacent eucalypt woodlands (Dennis 2001).

Northern Bettongs prefer ridges rather than gullies (Vernes 2003). Northern Bettongs show no clear association with soil type and are found in forests growing on basalt, granite, metamorphic, and alluvial derived soils (Laurance 1996; D. Storch pers. comm. 1998, cited in Dennis 2001; Winter 1997). The species prefers eucalypt woodland with sparse ground cover, and areas with many tree stems (Vernes 2003). Northern Bettong habitat consists of a cline (gradual change) of eucalypt forest types from very tall and wet Eucalyptus grandis dominated forests through tall E. resinifera-Syncarpia glomulifera dominated forests to medium height and drier E. citriodora or E. platyphylla dominated forests.
Protection and management of Northern Bettong habitat will assist the protection of ecological communities of conservation concern, such as Rosegum forest, Red Mahogany forest and Pink Bloodwood woodland (Sattler & Williams 1999). Some of these forests have the highest arboreal mammal diversity in Australia and contain many endemic and dependant species (Dennis 2001).

Sexual maturity of three female Northern Bettongs in captivity occurred at 9.6 months, 12.3 months and 12.7 months. One male attained sexual maturity at 14.6 months (Johnson & Delean 2001).

The Northern Bettong has no known microhabitat requirements for breeding. Females have two teats and raise one young per litter. Breeding is continuous and non-seasonal (Johnson & Delean 2001; Johnson & McIlwee 1997; Winter & Johnson 1995). Their rate of reproduction is high when compared to other members of the Macropodoidea, being able to produce up to three young per year if conditions remain optimal. However, studies in the wild suggest that sub-adult recruitment rates are probably low (Vernes 1998). Young emerge from the pouch permanently between 102–112 days and spend some time in the nest with their mother. They are weaned at 166–185 days (Johnson & Delean 2001).

Hypogenous fungi (ie. truffles) are the main food item of the Northern Bettong with grasses (particularly the stem bases from Cockatoo Grass, Alloteropsis semialata), lilies, forbs, invertebrates, fruits and seeds being minor components in decreasing order of importance (Johnson & McIlwee 1997; McIlwee & Johnson 1998). A study by Johnson and McIlwee (1997) demonstrated that truffles generally comprise about 45% of their diet. Most of the fungi are intimately associated with the root systems of species of Eucalyptus and complex interrelationships involving bettongs, eucalypts, fungi and fire regimes have been proposed (Johnson 1995; Taylor 1991).

Recent genetic studies indicate a low level of dispersal between sub-populations of the Northern Bettong in the Lamb Range (Pope et al. 2000).

Home ranges of both sexes of the Northern Bettong is 59 ha. Both sexes shelter in nests during the day, which are built in a section of the total home range (the nest area). Nest areas average 10.1 ha (males) and 5.4 ha (females) (Vernes & Pope 2001). Ranges overlap for individuals, both between and within sexes. Fire has no impact on the location or use of individuals' home ranges. Both during and after a fire, individuals remain within the limits of their movements prior to a fire (Vernes 1998).

The small size and isolated nature of the remaining populations of Northern Bettong and the limited geographical extent of the species make them extremely susceptible to stochastic extinction events, inbreeding depression or predation from a few individual introduced predators (Dennis 2001). Much of the habitat of the Northern Bettong is outside reserves, and subject to residential encroachment (Laurance 1997).

Northern Bettongs appear to be threatened by loss of habitat and food (truffles), due to unsuitable fire regimes. Tall eucalypt forests are at risk from rainforest invasion due to a lack of fire (Harrington & Sanderson 1994). This results in dramatic structural and floristic changes and a cumulative loss of habitat for the Northern Bettong (Dennis 2001).

The major threat from invasive species to the Northern Bettong is competition for hypogenous fungi from feral pigs (Laurance & Harrington 1997). The species prefers microhabitat with few signs of feral pigs (Vernes 2003).

Predation from foxes might also become important as numbers of foxes increase (Werren 1993). Predation by dingos is considered negligible (Vernes 2000).

Climate change could lead to the contraction of feeding truffles towards wetter areas (rainforest), potentially preventing the cooccurrence with Cockatoo Grass (Bateman et al. 2009).

Laurance (1997) recommended that fire be used to manage the habitat of the Northern Bettong to prevent rainforest encroachment and promote fungal regeneration and growth.

The Recovery Plan for the Northern Bettong (2000–2004) recommended the following specific recovery objectives:

  • Manage the habitat of known populations of Northern Bettongs
  • Develop public support for the recovery program and increase community involvement in Northern Bettong recovery
  • Reduce the impact of introduced predators and competitors
  • Increase the numbers of wild populations of Northern Bettongs

The Recovery Plan also recommended five recovery actions:

  • Manage the habitat of the four known populations of Northern Bettong
  • Encourage community participation in the recovery process
  • Monitor and control exotic predators and competitors
  • Re-introduce Northern Bettongs to their former range
  • Administer the recovery team and review the recovery process (Dennis 2001)

Dennis, A.J. (2001) Recovery Plan for the Northern Bettong Bettongia tropica 2000-2004 Environment Protection Agency, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.

Maxwell, S., A.A. Burbidge & K. Morris (1996) The 1996 Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes Wildlife Australia.

Werren, G.L. (1993) Conservation strategies for rare and threatened vertebrates of Australia's wet tropics region Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 34: 229-239.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Grazing pressures and associated habitat changes Recovery Plan for the Northern Bettong Bettongia tropica 2000-2004 (Dennis, A.J., 2001) [Recovery Plan].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Indirect Ecosystem Effects:Loss and/or fragmentation of habitat and/or subpopulations Recovery Plan for the Northern Bettong Bettongia tropica 2000-2004 (Dennis, A.J., 2001) [Recovery Plan].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Indirect Ecosystem Effects:Restricted geographical distribution (area of occupancy and extent of occurrence) Recovery Plan for the Northern Bettong Bettongia tropica 2000-2004 (Dennis, A.J., 2001) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Vulpes vulpes (Red Fox, Fox) Recovery Plan for the Northern Bettong Bettongia tropica 2000-2004 (Dennis, A.J., 2001) [Recovery Plan].
Bettongia tropica in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006de) [Internet].
Conservation strategies for rare and threatened vertebrates of Australia's wet tropics region. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum. 34:229-239. (Werren, G.L., 1993) [Journal].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Canis lupus familiaris (Domestic Dog) Recovery Plan for the Northern Bettong Bettongia tropica 2000-2004 (Dennis, A.J., 2001) [Recovery Plan].
Immediate effects of fire on survivorship of the northern bettong (Bettongia tropica): an endangered Australian marsupial. Biological Conservation. 96: 305-309. (Vernes, K., 2000) [Journal].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Grazing, tramping, competition and/or habitat degradation Sus scrofa (Pig) Recovery Plan for the Northern Bettong Bettongia tropica 2000-2004 (Dennis, A.J., 2001) [Recovery Plan].
Bettongia tropica in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006de) [Internet].
Ecological associations of feeding sites of feral pigs in the Queensland wet tropics. Wildlife Research. 24:579-590. (Laurance, W.F. & Harrington, G.N., 1997) [Journal].
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Predation, Habitat Degradation, Competition and Disease Transmission by Feral Pigs (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2001ab) [Listing Advice].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) Recovery Plan for the Northern Bettong Bettongia tropica 2000-2004 (Dennis, A.J., 2001) [Recovery Plan].
Residential and Commercial Development:Residential and Commercial Development:Habitat modification (clearance and degradation) due to urban development Bettongia tropica in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006de) [Internet].
Species Stresses:Indirect Species Effects:Low genetic diversity and genetic inbreeding Recovery Plan for the Northern Bettong Bettongia tropica 2000-2004 (Dennis, A.J., 2001) [Recovery Plan].
Species Stresses:Indirect Species Effects:Low numbers of individuals Recovery Plan for the Northern Bettong Bettongia tropica 2000-2004 (Dennis, A.J., 2001) [Recovery Plan].

Bateman, B., J. VanDerWal, S. Williams & C. Johnson (2009). Modelling Biotic Interactions under Climate Change Scenarios: Predicting Northern Bettong (Bettongia tropica) Distribution. In: Semi-Centenary and 55th Meeting in Perth July 5-9, 2009 Scientific Program.

Carpenter, G., A. N. Gillison & J. Winter (1993). DOMAIN: a flexible modelling procedure for mapping potential distributions of plants and animals. Biodiversity and Conservation. 2:667-680.

Dennis, A.J. (2001). Recovery Plan for the Northern Bettong Bettongia tropica 2000-2004. [Online]. Environmental Protection Agency, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/northern-bettong/index.html.

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC) (2011j). Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened mammals. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.5. [Online]. EPBC Act policy statement: Canberra, ACT: DSEWPAC. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/publications/threatened-mammals.html.

Harrington, G.N. & Sanderson, K.D. (1994). Recent contraction of wet sclerophyll forest in the wet tropics of Queensland due to invasion by rainforest. Pacific Conservation Biology. 1:319-327.

Herald Sun (2002). Survivors cling on. Herald Sun (Melbourne). 9 May 2002.

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (2007). 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. [Online]. Downloaded on 02 June 2008.

Johnson, C.N. (1995). Interactions between fire, mycophagous mammals, and dispersal of ectromycorrhizal fungi in Eucalyptus forests. Oecologia. 104:467-475.

Johnson, C.N. & McIlwee, A.P. (1997). Ecology of the northern bettong, Bettongia tropica, a tropical mycophagist. Wildlife Research. 24:549-559.

Johnson, P.M. & Delean, S. (2001). Reproduction in the northern bettong, Bettongia tropica Wakefield (Marsupialia: Potoroidae), in captivity, with age estimation and development of pouch young. Wildlife Research. 28:79-85.

Laurance, W.F (1996). A distributional survey and habitat model for the endangered northern bettong (Bettongia tropica) in tropical Queensland. Report to the Department of Environment.

Laurance, W.F. & Harrington, G.N. (1997). Ecological associations of feeding sites of feral pigs in the Queensland wet tropics. Wildlife Research. 24:579-590.

Laurance, William F. (1997). A distributional survey and habitat model for the endangered northern bettong Bettongia tropica in tropical Queensland. Biological Conservation. 82:47-60.

Maxwell, S., A.A. Burbidge & K. Morris (1996). The 1996 Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes. [Online]. Wildlife Australia, Environment Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/resource/action-plan-australian-marsupials-and-monotremes.

McIlwee, A.P. & Johnson, C.N. (1998). The contribution of fungus to the diets of three mycophagous marsupials in Eucalyptus forests, revealed by stable isotope forests. Functional Ecology. 12:223-231.

Pope, L.C., Estoup, A. & Moritz, C. (2000). Phylogeography and population structure of an ecotonal marsupial, Bettongia tropica, determined using mtDNA and microsatellites. Molecular Ecology. 9:2041-2054.

Sattler, P., & R. Williams (1999). The Conservation Status of Queensland's Biogeographic Regions. Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane.

Strahan, R. (Ed.) (1998). The Mammals of Australia, Second Edition, rev. Sydney, NSW: Australian Museum and Reed New Holland.

Taylor, R.J. (1991). Plants, fungi and bettongs: a fire-dependent co-evolutionary relationship. Australian Journal of Ecology. 16:409-411.

Vernes, K. (1998). Ecology of the Northern Bettong (Bettongia tropica) in relation to fire. Report to the the Conservation Strategy Branch of the Department of Environment.

Vernes, K. (2000). Immediate effects of fire on survivorship of the northern bettong (Bettongia tropica): an endangered Australian marsupial. Biological Conservation. 96: 305-309.

Vernes, K. (2003). Fine-scale habitat preferences and habitat partitioning by three mycophagous mammals in tropical wet sclerophyll forest, north-eastern Australia. Austral Ecology. 28:471-479.

Vernes, K. & L.C. Pope (2001). Stability of nest range, home range and movement of the Northern Bettong (Bettongia tropica) following moderate-intensity fire in a tropical woodland, north-east Queensland. Wildlife Research. 96:305-309.

Wakefield, N. (1967). Some taxonomic revision in the Australian marsupial genus Bettongia, with description of a new species. The Victorian Naturalist. 84:8-22.

Werren, G.L. (1993). Conservation strategies for rare and threatened vertebrates of Australia's wet tropics region. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum. 34:229-239.

Winter, J.W (1992). Population assessment of the northern brush-tailed bettong on the Mt Windsor Tableland, north eastern Queensland. Report to the Conservation Strategy Branch of the Department of the Environment.

Winter, J.W (1997). Distribution of the northern Bettong, Bettongia tropica, in north-eastern Australia. Report to the Worldwide Wildlife Fund for Nature Australia.

Winter, J.W. & Johnson, P.M. (1995). Northern Bettong. In: Strahan, R., ed. The Mammals of Australia. Page(s) 294-295. Reed Books: Sydney.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Bettongia tropica in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Sat, 20 Sep 2014 20:56:52 +1000.