Find out how the Kangaroo Island dunnart is faring after the bushfires

Ninety per cent of KI dunnarts’ habitat was burnt in the summer bushfires. Find out about the species’ recovery.

The only place in the world where the Kangaroo Island (KI) dunnart is found is Kangaroo Island in South Australia – now that’s special!

This small, pointy nosed marsupial was actually endangered before the 2019-20 summer bushfires and there has been much effort over the years to restore their habitat and reduce the number of feral cats that prey on them, in a bid to help dunnarts’ survival.

Here’s everything you need to know about this species, their habitat and how they are recovering:

Pre-bushfire population

Before the recent bushfires it was estimated that between 300 and 500 KI dunnarts lived on Kangaroo Island.

All recorded sightings of the marsupial since 1990 have been within the western end of the island.

Kangaroo Island bushfires

The 2019-20 bushfire event on Kangaroo Island was the largest in the island’s recorded history and burnt more vegetation than any other bushfire on the island.

About 200,000 hectares of the 440,500 ha island was burnt – that’s almost half the island.

Post-bushfire population

Post-bushfires, initial assessments indicated a significant decline in the KI dunnart population, with more than 90 per cent of its habitat burnt.

The exact number of native animals that perished has not been confirmed.  

On 11 February the Commonwealth Government named the KI dunnart as one of the top 10 species under threat following the bushfires.

KI dunnart recovery effort 

To better understand the bushfire impacts on the KI dunnart populations and other native wildlife species, ecologists are assessing small remnants of unburnt habitat on the western end of the island looking for signs of wildlife.

Local private land conservation organisation Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife has continued post-bushfire to work in partnership with private landholders on threatened species monitoring using motion-sensing cameras.

KI dunnarts were detected on cameras at a previously known site, just a few days after the fires burnt through privately-owned conservation land. 

The same monitoring approach is being used in the island’s national parks, with about 50 cameras set up in 12 of the larger unburnt patches of land. These cameras have spotted KI dunnarts in remnants of Flinders Chase National Park and Ravine des Casoars Wilderness Protection Area.

KI_Dunnart.jpg

Dunnart spotted on a motion-sensing camera

Feral cats are a major threat to the island's special natives – particularly at this sensitive time following the bushfires where little habitat remains.

Feral cat management activities, such as trapping and humane destruction, is also underway on the island to support the recovery of native animals like the KI dunnart.

Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife in partnership with Australian Wildlife Conservancy have built a cat-proof fence around one known KI dunnart habitat to help lessen the threat of the remaining feral cat population and will continue 24/7 feral cat management at known KI dunnart sites within private conservation land.

How can you help?

To help support the recovery of species like the KI dunnart in parks, you can donate to the National Parks and Wildlife Service South Australia and the Nature Foundation’s Wildlife Recovery Fund.

If you would like to support private land conservation visit the Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife Facebook page for donation details.

What other recovery work is underway?

A Wildlife and Habitat Bushfire Recovery Plan is currently being created for South Australia in partnership with the Wildlife and Habitat Recovery Taskforce and input from leading threatened species ecologists, experts from the island, conservation groups, KI community and Australian and SA government representatives.

Learn more about bushfire recovery in our story: How bushfires play an important role in biodiversity.  

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