National recovery plan for the Golden Bandicoot Isoodon auratus and Golden-backed Tree-rat Mesembriomys macrurus 2004 - 2009
Palmer, C. Taylor, R. and Burbidge, A.
Northern Territory Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Environment, 2003
A formal mammal monitoring program on Barrow Island was commenced in 1998 (Morris et al. 2002) to address:
- a) Monitoring of mammal populations inside and outside the oilfield using a combination of spotlight transects and trapping;
- b) Monitor fauna response where rat eradication was undertaken; and
- c) Monitor to ensure that feral animal, especially rodents and cats do not establish on the island.
Monitoring feral animals regularly on the islands where the species occurs is recommended and in the Kimberley and on Marchinbar Island the monitoring program could incorporate local peoples tracking skills (combined with the formal monitoring program). The development of a contingency plan including operational procedures in the advent of feral cat/rat introductions will be the key to managing the feral animal threat in an efficient manner.
One island in the Kimberley stands out for biodiversity conservation as both species are present (Uwins Island). It is suggested that a regular trapping program to monitor the populations be commenced in conjunction with the two Kimberley mainland sites where both species are also present (Yampi Sound Training Area and Mitchell Plateau).
Since Golden Bandicoots only occur on one island in the Northern Territory there is a high risk of loosing the population in the event of feral cats being introduced or the occurrence of an intense fire over the whole island. To reduce this risk it is recommended that new populations be established via translocation from Marchinbar to at least two other suitable islands in the Wessel or English Company Island groups of northeastern Arnhem Land. The Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory (PWCNT) has undertaken a comprehensive survey of plants and animals across all main islands in the Wessel and English Company Island groups, in the vicinity of Marchinbar Island (Woinarski et al. 1999, 2000). Based on this information, a number of islands are considered potentially suitable (on the basis of size, appropriateness of habitat, access, and absence of known threats) for establishing new populations of golden bandicoot. The suitability of these islands for translocation obviously needs more than an ecological assessment, but also must involve an approval from the particular Aboriginal landowners, and a willingness from those owners to be involved in ongoing cooperative management and the need to keep islands free of cats and rodents.
Fire management practices
In the north Kimberley, fire frequency and the spatial extent of fires will need to be reduced considerably below what currently exists if populations of Golden Bandicoot and Golden-backed Tree-rat (and other CWR mammals) are to be maintained. The current fire regime is reducing structural diversity and important resources over large areas. We would suggest the establishment of Aboriginal fire management teams to undertake strategic early dry season fire breaks around mainland and island sites where the species persist (in conjunction with relevant Government Agencies) and develop a fire management program that complements the aerial control-burning program.
In these remote areas where the species survives, the active involvement of Aboriginal landholders and neighbouring landholders in developing fire management strategies on lands they own or have an interest in should be encouraged by relevant agencies. Fire management strategies could involve planning a burn program for the forthcoming year (in the early dry season) using satellite images to determine where best to burn (or where not to burn) and on ground fire management techniques could include walking, horseback, quad, 4WD and aerial.
In an effort to minimise the possibility of the occurrence of large scale wildfires on Marchinbar Island, on ground fire management should be aimed towards reducing fuel loads via patchy burning undertaken in late wet or early dry season.