The translocation of the critically endangered Gilbert’s potoroo to Bald Island Nature Reserve near Albany has resulted in the birth of the first young on the island.
Environment Minister Judy Edwards said the surprise discovery of the young potoroo in its mother’s pouch was made on Monday.
“The tiny potoroo, about 15mm long, was found in the pouch of a female that had been released on the island a day or two earlier,” Dr Edwards said.
“It was very surprising the mother gave birth, given the disruptions of being transported and released in a new environment.
“This is very promising for the future existence of the species in this environment, because if the young potoroo, believed to be a female, survives to maturity, it will increase the breeding gene pool of the island’s potoroo population.”
Potoroos will hold a single young in the pouch for up to four months before weaning.
Dr Edwards said the new mother was the second female potoroo released on the island, following the initial release of a female and two males last August as part of a Department of Conservation and Land Management project to increase the status and population of the species. There are fewer than 40 of animals recorded worldwide.
Gilbert’s potoroo (Potorous gilbertii) is known to exist in the wild only at Mt Gardner in Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve and its population is so critically endangered that the establishment of another population is essential.
The August release of potoroos followed a five-week trial in February this year, when movements and the condition of two animals were closely monitored to determine whether the environment could support the species.
Bald Island was chosen for the translocation as its climate is similar to Two Peoples Bay. It has suitable habitat for the survival of the species and is free of foxes and cats.
The Gilbert’s potoroo was the centre of one of the most exciting recent biological finds, when a PhD student discovered it at Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve in late 1994.
Before that discovery, the species was last recorded some time between 1874 and 1879. Significant research has since been undertaken to ensure the animal’s conservation and towards locating other populations. So far, none has been found.
Gilbert’s potoroo is a one-kilogram relative of kangaroos that feeds almost exclusively on underground fungi.
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