Eastern barred bandicoots returned to the wild in Dunkeld

“What are those fluffy white dogs doing in that paddock?” has been a common question Hayley Glover, Dunkeld Pastoral Co Pty Ltd Conservation Manager, has received over the last few months. The answer? These cute dogs have one very important mission: To keep predators away from these critically endangered Eastern Barred Bandicoots.

Roaming a Dunkeld Pastoral Co Pty Ltd conservation paddock, not far from the hotel, you will find these two maremmas (livestock guardian dogs) named Terzo and Wednesday. These dogs are more than just big and fluffy, they have been specially trained by Zoos Victoria to help in the protection of the endangered Eastern Barred Bandicoot.

Eastern Barred Bandicoots were once widespread across the grassy woodlands of southwest Victoria, however extensive habitat destruction and the spread of introduced predators, particularly foxes and feral cats have seen a steady decline of the bandicoots population across their mainland habitat. Today, outside of fenced reserves, island populations and these research trials, Eastern Barred Bandicoots are extinct in the wild on mainland Australia.

Dunkeld Pastoral Co Pty Ltd (DPC), Royal Mail Hotel’s parent company, has been working on a collaborative research trial between a number of organisations including Zoos Victoria and the University of Tasmania. The project aims to reintroduce populations of the notoriously gentle and shy native marsupials back into the wild on mainland Victoria. Last week, twenty bandicoots were translocated from Phillip Island Nature Parks’ wild population and from captive breeding programs at Werribee Open Range Zoo, Melbourne Zoo and Serendip Sanctuary, and released on the conservation paddock, where the Zoos Victoria’s guardian dogs have been living alongside a flock of DPC sheep.

A team of conservation scientists will now track the movements of both the bandicoots and the guardian dogs via transmitters attached to the animals as the canines actively seek to deter predatory foxes away from the site. This is the second trial in an innovative research project aimed at reintroducing the critically endangered Eastern Barred Bandicoot back onto Victoria’s mainland where the species once thrived. It follows last year’s release of a small group of bandicoots at another guardian dog-protected reserve owned by the National Trust (Victoria) near Skipton.

Royal Mail Hotel guests are invited to learn more about our conservation programs on our Native Wildlife Feeding tour which runs every afternoon (Monday-Saturday). On the tour you can learn more about the progress of this project and you will be able to see our Eastern Quolls, a range of macropod species and Fat-Tailed Dunnarts. Book your tour on arrival or email relax@royalmail.com.au

Watch the video below to learn more about this research trial and see Terzo and Wednesday in action.

Video & photo credit: Zoos Victoria

The Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Team has members from Conservation Volunteers Australia, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), Glenelg Hopkins CMA, Mt Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre, National Trust of Australia (Victoria), Parks Victoria, Phillip Island Nature Parks, the University of Melbourne, Tiverton Property Partnering and Zoos Victoria.
The Zoos Victoria Guardian Dog Project has members from Dunkeld Pastoral Company, National Trust of Australia (Victoria), Tiverton Property Partnering, the University of Melbourne, the University of Tasmania and Zoos Victoria.

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In the spirit of reconciliation, Royal Mail Hotel acknowledges and pays respect to the Traditional Custodians of the land we are on, the Gunditjmara and Eastern Maar Peoples and their elders past, present and future. Continue reading.