Bushfires in Australia burned at least 200,000 hectares of the Kangaroo Island. This is half of the island, especially that of the protected areas in which dunnarts can be found.
After fears of habitat destruction for the animals that could have left only 300 to 500 of the threatened marsupials, wildlife experts find a sliver of hope after sighting dunnarts using motion-sensing cameras on the island.
Dr. Dan Rogers, South Australia’s chief ecologist at the Department of Environment and Water, said specialist advise from some of the world’s leading experts helped in the conservation of the animals.
“Prof. Chris Dickman, he knows more about dunnarts generally than anyone else in the world. He was on the phone to us talking us through the biggest risk during the fire and immediately after,” Dr. Rogers said.
“After the fire, the dunnarts that survived were being found in relatively high densities in unburnt patches and we thought they would be honey pots for the remaining cats on the island… we tried to reduce the risk from the cats,” he added.
Dunnarts are mouse-like creatures that have a pouch like a kangaroo for their babies. They are also related to quolls and the Tasmanian devils.
“They have got a lot of fight for their size,” Dr. Rogers said, now that dunnarts are looking safer.
About 50 motion-sensing cameras was set up in 10 unburnt patched of parkland and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy has funded a cat-proof fence around one dunnart population on private land on the west coast of Kangaroo Island.
“Some of these species people around the world have never even heard about and suddenly people are donating to help them, the profile of threatened species throughout the bushfires has been remarkable,” Dr Rogers said. “There are many species on Kangaroo Island found elsewhere in the country but because they have been isolated they have their own unique forms.”
Though the dunnarts were slow-moving creatures, Dr. Rogers said they were resourceful and many burrowed underground or sheltered under logs to survive the fire.
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