Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes

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Wildlife Australia, December 1996
ISBN 0 6422 1395 X

The importance of islands

At least 67 species of marsupials (36 of which are CWR species) occur or occurred on 140 islands around the Australian continent (data from Abbott and Burbidge 1995). Seven species of mainland marsupials now occur only on islands (Table 3). These figures alone convey the immensely valuable role that islands are playing and must continue to play in conserving marsupial species.

Table 3. Australian marsupials that are extinct on the mainland but remain on continental islands.

Species Island(s)
Dasyurus viverrinus, Eastern Quoll Tasmania
Pseudantechinus mimulus, Carpentarian Antechinus1 North, Centre and West Islands, Sir Edward Pellew Group
Perameles bougainville, Western Barred Bandicoot2 Bernier, Dorre
Bettongia lesueur, Boodie2 Barrow, Boodie3, Bernier, Dorre
Bettongia gaimardi, Tasmanian Bettong Tasmania, Bruny
Lagostrophus fasciatus, Banded Hare-wallaby Bernier, Dorre
Thylogale billardieri, Tasmanian Pademelon Tasmania and several other Tasmanian islands

1 Survey on mainland may not be adequate.
2 Experimental translocation to mainland underway.
3 Re-introduced.

Some island populations of the species in Table 3 have been recognised as distinct subspecies. Other species also are represented on islands as endemic subspecies, e.g. the Barrow Island Euro (Macropus robustus isabellinus).

Some of these islands have been affected by a number of the threatening processes associated with declines and extinctions on the mainland introduced herbivores and carnivores such as goats, sheep, cattle, pigs, foxes, cats and rats; tourism and other recreational use, mining, timber extraction, military uses and changed fire regimes (Burbidge 1989). Some islands have been affected by over-hunting, causing local extinctions, e.g. the Bass Strait Wombat Vombatus ursinus ursinus and the Thylacine Thylacinus cynocephalus. The majority of islands, however, are largely unaffected by human activity and remain essential refugia for many threatened species. Many have been declared as conservation reserves.

Tasmania became a refuge for the Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) and the Thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) when the Dingo (Canis lupus dingo) (see Corbett 1995 for discussion of scientific name) replaced them on the mainland. Since European settlement, Tasmania has become a refuge for the Tasmanian (Red-bellied) Pademelon (Thylogale billardierii), Tasmanian (Eastern) Bettong (Bettongia gaimardi) and Eastern Quoll (Dasyurus viverrinus), all of whose mainland populations are now extinct. Although habitat change is putting pressure on several marsupial species, the fox is not established there. Cats are present, however, and are causing problems for native mammals through predation and the transmission of diseases such as toxoplasmosis.

As Table 3 shows, the Western Australian islands of Barrow, Bernier and Dorre are of the highest conservation importance, harbouring four of Australia's threatened marsupial species, the Western Barred Bandicoot (Perameles bougainville), the Burrowing Bettong (Bettongia lesueur), the Rufous Hare-wallaby (Lagorchestes hirsutus) and the Banded Hare-wallaby (Lagostrophus fasciatus), as well as the Djoongari or Shark Bay Mouse Pseudomys fieldi. Tasmania is also of great importance, harbouring three species now extinct on the mainland (see above) as well as having endemic taxa. These and other surviving island populations also provide a great opportunity to conduct further research on island biogeography, ecology and conservation biology, in preparation for future re- introduction programs on the mainland. A high level of research and management commitment and effort will be required to take advantage of this opportunity.

Distribution of endangered and vulnerable Australian marsupials

During the preparation of the Recovery Outlines and Taxon Summaries, the Editors asked specialists to provide distribution maps showing the 'current distribution' of taxa, based on their knowledge of specimens and other records. The base map provided was the key map to the Australia 1:250 000 map series and we asked for presence/absence for each map sheet. We had intended to compile these maps into summaries showing the distribution of threatened species of marsupials and monotremes in Australia.

However, it became evident that the individual maps were very valuable and should be published in their own right. Accordingly, we arranged for software to be written to allow the publication of a distribution map for each taxon included in this Action Plan. It should be emphasised that the maps provide information only on presence or absence of a taxon in the area covered by a map sheet - presence of a taxon in the area covered by a map sheet does not imply anything about abundance or conservation status. [Note that some additional distributional data provided during the review period could not be added to the maps.]

Information from each taxon map was compiled into summary maps showing the distribution of all threatened taxa (CR, EN and VU, Figure 1) and all taxa included in this Action Plan (CR, EN, VU, LR(cd), LR(nt) and DD, Figure 2). Figure 1 can be compared with Figure 16 in the 1992 Action Plan.

Figure 1 shows concentration of threatened taxa in the south west of WA, in parts of Victoria and coastal NSW, and in north Qld. It also shows the importance of Barrow Island, off the Pilbara coast of WA, and of Bernier and Dorre Islands, Shark Bay, WA. Figure 2 again emphasises the concentration of taxa of conservation importance in the south west of WA, southern and eastern Vic., and along the east coast of NSW and Qld, but shows the highest concentration of taxa in north Qld where the many rainforest endemics are located.

Figure 1. Distribution of threatened (Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable) Australian marsupials and monotremes. Number of taxa occurring in each 1:250 000 map sheet area.

Figure 1

Figure 2. Distribution of all taxa of Australian marsupials and monotremes included in this Action Plan (Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, Lower Risk (conservation dependent), Lower Risk (near threatened) and Data Deficient). Number of taxa occurring in each 1:250 000 map sheet area.

Figure 2

Marsupial and monotreme recovery plans

Table 4 shows the taxa that have written national recovery plans funded jointly by the Endangered Species Program (ESP) and the relevant range States, and sometimes by other agencies, non-Government organisations and individuals.

Table 4. National Recovery Plans being implemented for Australian threatened marsupials, as at December 1995.

Species Range
ANZECC status
in 1991
Action Plan status
Dasycercus byrnei, Kowari Qld 1991/92 Endangered VU
Dasyurus geoffroii, Chuditch WA 1991/92 Endangered VU
Mrymecobius fasciatus, Numbat WA 1992/93 Endangered VU
Macrotis lagotis, Bilby NT/Qld 1991/92 Vulnerable VU
Lasiorhinus krefftii, Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat Qld 1991/92 Endangered CR
Bettongia penicillata, Woylie WA/SA 1991/92 Endangered LR(cd)
Lagorchestes hirsutus central Australian subspecies, Mala NT 1991/92 Subspecies not covered,
species listed as Endangered
Onychogalea fraenata, Bridled Nailtail Wallaby Qld 1991/92 Endangered EN
Petrogale persephone, Prosperpine Rock-wallaby Qld 1992/93 Endangered EN
Petaurus gracilis, Mahogany Glider Qld 1992/93 not covered EN

Not included in this table are taxa that are being managed wholly via State plans, eg, Victorian Action Statements prepared under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (Spotted-tailed Quoll (Dasyurus maculatus maculatus), Paucident Planigale (Planigale gilesi), Brush-tailed Phascogale (Phascogale tapoatafa tapoatafa), Leadbeater's Possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri), the mainland subspecies of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot (Perameles gunnii unnamed subspecies), Mountain Pygmy-possum (Burramys parvus), Long-footed Potoroo (Potorous longipes) and Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby (Petrogale penicillata)), and Interim Recovery Plans, such as for Gilbert's Potoroo (Potorous gilbertii) and the Western Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus occidentalis) in Western Australia. Some of these plans relate only to part of species' distributions. Draft Recovery Plans have been prepared for a number of taxa around Australia. Often these are being partly implemented before agency approval and publication.

Also not included in Table 4 are species for which research projects are underway as a precursor to the writing of Recovery Plans. Research Plans being implemented with funding from Biodiversity Group, Environment Australia include Dibbler (Parantechinus apicalis), Mulgara (Dasycercus cristicauda) and Ampurta (D. hillieri) (the Mulgara in parts of its range only), Julia Creek Dunnart (Sminthopsis douglasi), Eastern Barred Bandicoot Tasmanian subspecies (Perameles gunnii gunnii) (some research supported by WWF Australia), Golden Bandicoot (mainland subspecies) (Isoodon auratus auratus), Northern Bettong (Bettongia tropica) (some research supported by WWF Australia), Mountain Pygmy-possum (Burramys parvus) (some research supported by WWF Australia), Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby (Petrogale penicillata), and Red-tailed Phascogale (Phascogale calura). WWF Australia has also supported research into the Mahogany Glider (Petaurus gracilis). Considerable research into many taxa has been funded by State and Territory conservation agencies.

The status of three of the taxa in Table 4 has improved significantly following recovery actions. The Woylie was listed as Endangered in the 1992 Action Plan and is now listed as Lower Risk (Conservation Dependent) following fox control and translocations to establish new populations. The Numbat and Chuditch were also listed as Endangered in the 1992 Plan; their status has improved to Vulnerable for the same reasons.

Table 4 also does not include general management actions that are designed to benefit a number of species, such as occurs, for example, with fox control in Western Australia.

Several marsupial taxa are urgently in need of recovery plans or other recovery actions. In particular, the Critically Endangered and Endangered taxa listed in Table 5 should be immediately addressed. Note that for some of these taxa, some work, e.g. research or local conservation actions, are already underway.

Table 5. Critically Endangered and Endangered Australian marsupials in urgent need of recovery plan preparation and/or implementation. Note: some conservation work already underway for some taxa.

Category of threat Taxon Range State(s)
Sminthopsis griseoventer unnamed subsp., Boullanger Island Dunnart WA
Potorous gilbertii, Gilbert's Potoroo WA
Endangered Dasyurus maculatus gracilis, Spotted-tailed Quoll (N Qld) Qld
Parantechinus apicalis, Dibbler WA
Sminthopsis aitkeni, Kangaroo Island Dunnart SA
Sminthopsis douglasi, Julia Creek Dunnart Qld
Sminthopsis psammophila, Sandhill Dunnart SA, WA
Phascogale calura, Red-tailed Phascogale WA
Notoryctes caurinus, Kakarratul, Northern Marsupial Mole WA, NT
Notoryctes typhlops, Itjaritjari, Southern Marsupial Mole SA, NT, WA
Perameles bougainville bougainville, Western Barred Bandicoot (Shark Bay) WA
Bettongia tropica, Northern Bettong Qld
Gymnobelideus leadbeateri, Leadbeater's Possum Vic

Other marsupial management plans

Some marsupial species not considered to be threatened or near threatened are the subject of species management plans prepared under provisions of the Commonwealth Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1982, or prepared by States and Territories under the provisions of State legislation.

Five species of kangaroos and large wallabies (Western Grey Kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus), Eastern Grey Kangaroo (M. giganteus), Whiptail Wallaby (M. parryi), Euro or Common Wallaroo (M. robustus) and Red Kangaroo (M. rufus)) and the Common Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) are currently culled in parts of their ranges to reduce damage to primary production and for use in commercial industry. The products are exported, and the management plans, prepared to satisfy Commonwealth legislation, are publicly available and legally challengeable. However, these plans are not concerned with species' recovery, which is the subject of this Action Plan.

Additionally, a number of common and abundant species are subject to local management plans to reduce numbers and alleviate damage to primary production. In these cases there is no export of the products and the plans are not subject to Commonwealth legislation. Examples are Bennett's Wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus rufogriseus) and the Red-bellied Pademelon (Thylogale billardierii) in Tasmania. Once again, however, management pertains to pest control and not to species recovery.