The first potoroo pouch-young bred on Bald Island Nature Reserve near Albany marks the successful translocation of a colony of Australia’s most critically endangered mammal, the Gilbert’s potoroo.
The young male potoroo (Potorous gilbertii) is the offspring of the female and one of the two males released to the island in August last year as part of a project by the Department of Conservation and Land Management to increase the conservation status and population of the species.
Environment Minister Mark McGowan said the discovery was made by CALM research scientist Dr Tony Friend during a routine visit to the island to monitor the translocated animals.
“During a similar monitoring visit in December, CALM scientists were unable to locate the three animals from the initial August release and had some concerns for their welfare,” he said.
“However, the return trip last month identified that the animals from the first release were not only alive and well, but had their first young, a male, almost ready to leave the pouch.”
The discovery of the young male potoroo follows the birth of a newborn found in the pouch of a second female adult that was released to Bald Island in December last year.
“Days after her release, it was found that she had given birth to a young female potoroo despite the disruption of being transported from the mainland and released on the island,” Mr McGowan said.
“It is good news for the island’s potoroo colony that the second female released is still carrying the baby which was conceived on the mainland, because it will increase the gene pool of the colony.”
Dr Friend anticipates the male potoroo bred on Bald Island was born about October last year and that he will soon be ready to leave the pouch. He anticipates that the mother will give birth again as soon as her pouch is empty.
“The Gilbert’s potoroo only exists at Mt Gardner in Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve and now Bald Island and the total species population consists of less than 40 animals worldwide,” Mr McGowan said.
“The species is so critically endangered that the establishment of this additional population is essential.”
The nocturnal marsupial, a 1kg relative of kangaroos that feeds almost exclusively on underground fungi, will hold a single young in the pouch for up to four months before weaning.
Bald Island was chosen for the translocation as its climate is similar to Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve, it has suitable habitat for the survival of the species and is free of foxes and cats.
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