Environment SA News

Saving the KI dunnart

The Kangaroo Island dunnart, a tiny carnivorous marsupial, has rarely been seen in the last 20 years, but despite that, a major push is underway to help conserve this endangered species.

Saving the KI dunnart
A major push is underway to help conserve the endangered Kangaroo Island dunnart. (Photo by Jody Gates)

In May conservation scientists and land managers from Kangaroo Island and beyond meet to discuss knowledge and actions to support the recovery of this rare species.

The meeting was supported by the Kangaroo Island Natural Resources Management Board, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, and the Threatened Species Recovery Hub.

Natural Resources Management Board spokesperson Jasper Taylor said he was impressed by the strong community support for saving a species that few people have seen.

“The presentations were a real eye-opener for me and demonstrated the level of expertise we have to support the recovery of this species,” Mr Taylor said.

“From threats such as feral cats and habitat destruction through to how fire can be both detrimental and beneficial to habitat for the dunnart, there were plenty of topics for lively discussion.”

For two years the Threatened Species Recovery Hub of the National Environmental Science Program has been undertaking research on Kangaroo Island to help save the species, in collaboration with landholders and KI agencies and groups.

Dr Rosie Hohnen from Charles Darwin University presented the findings of the Hub’s research about how best to detect and monitor the elusive species.

“This is a really hard species to find and the last extensive surveys occurred almost 20 years ago. However we were able to establish that camera traps facing plastic drift fences are the best method to detect the dunnart,” Dr Hohnen said.

“We found the dunnart at five sites on western Kangaroo Island using this method, showing they are persevering on the island.

“Other groups, notably KI Land for Wildlife, are now also using this method, so it is great to see the research findings already being applied.”

The Threatened Species Recovery Hub also presented the findings of research investigating control methods for feral cats, which are a major threat to the dunnart.

Kangaroo Island (KI) Land for Wildlife, a Non-Government Organisation for private land conservation, also presented their work with private landholders to survey for the species and reduce threats.

KI Land for Wildlife spokesperson Heidi Groffen said supporting private landholders to better understand which threatened species live within their bushland helps secure long-term protection for the KI dunnart and other species.

“Once landholders see a KI dunnart on a wildlife camera, their enthusiasm to protect the species from threats such as feral cats and phytophthora cinnamomi (Pc dieback) is greater,” Ms Groffen said.

“KI Land for Wildlife will continue this work supported by the Kangaroo Island Natural Resources Management Board, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

“This funding will also support the KI Land for Wildlife program to develop a feasibility study for a feral cat-free refuge on private land to ensure the species persists in its core habitat.”

The Kangaroo Island dunnart is one of 20 priority mammals identified under the Australian Government’s Threatened Species Strategy, while Kangaroo Island is one of five islands targeted for feral cat eradication.

Find out more about the Kangaroo Island dunnart here: