Environment SA News

Saving Australia’s endangered greater stick-nest rat

Recently, South Australia’s greater stick-nest rats were flown to Mt Gibson Sanctuary in Western Australia to boost the species numbers.

Saving Australia’s endangered greater stick-nest rat
A greater stick-nest rat being released to Mt Gibson Sanctuary, WA. Image credit: Brad Leue / AWC

The Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) in partnership with the Department for Environment and Water (DEW) relocated 13 greater stick-nest rats from St Peter Island (part of Nuyts Archipelago Conservation Park) South Australia to their Western Australian wildlife haven.

Australian Wildlife Conservancy Regional Ecologist Dr Michael Smith said greater stick-nest rats historically lived across southern and central Australia, but numbers have dropped significantly due to competition with rabbits and predation by feral cats and foxes.

“Originally there were two species of stick-nest rats - the lesser and greater,” Dr Smith said.

“Tragically, the lesser stick-nest rat is now extinct, and the last remaining wild population of only about 1,000 greater stick-nest rats occurs on the Franklin Islands in South Australia.

“A captive breeding program began in 1985 to increase numbers and new populations, such as that on St Peter Island and the one being established within the predator-free Mt Gibson Sanctuary in WA.”

Department for Environment and Water spokesperson Peter Copley said this translocation was an important contribution to the long-term security of this species.

“It is a risk to have the rat geographically isolated, making the species susceptible to extinction from localised catastrophic events such as fire, disease, or even arrival of exotic predators,” Mr Copley said.

“The department is very happy to partner with AWC to boost numbers of the greater stick-nest rats for Australia.”

Dr Smith added that several new populations had been established since 1990, with self-sufficient and growing populations now at five additional sites, including Mt Gibson.

AWC are monitoring the new greater stick-nest rat population at Mt Gibson. Watch the below documentary on the translocation.

Greater Stick-nest Rats Journey Over Land & Sea | Australian Wildlife Conservancy