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Miraculous marsupial: dryandra numbat survey provides good news

Daniel RooneyNarrogin Observer
Tony Friend and Rob McLean.
Camera IconTony Friend and Rob McLean. Credit: Daniel Rooney

Against all odds, the latest numbat survey in Dryandra National Park conducted between April 24-28 park has shown that the numbat population is in good form.

Dryandra in the Shire of Cuballing.
Camera IconDryandra in the Shire of Cuballing. Credit: Daniel Rooney

“If you saw one or two numbats during the survey five years ago it was big event,” Rob McLean said.

“Now you might see five or six in an afternoon if you’re lucky.”

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Mr McLean from the Numbat Task Force assisted Dr Tony Friend from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions with the survey.

“We had 24 sightings, which is up there for April,” Dr Friend said.

“That implies the high numbers we’ve been seeing haven’t dropped off, they’re maintaining.”

The numbat population has steadily increased over the past twenty years, however numbers dipped significantly in the 90s

Dr Friend said it has been theorised that the drop may have occurred as a result of an increase in feral cats following the introduction of fox baiting in the late 80s.

The DBCA baiting program has had a significant impact.
Camera IconThe DBCA baiting program has had a significant impact. Credit: Daniel Rooney

“We didn’t see any sign of cats increasing for a few years,” he said, “But there was a parasitic infection of the numbats that may have been linked to high density.”

While not a static measure, the steady numbers sighted by the survey team might indicate that the Dryandra population is approaching carrying capacity.

“Carrying capacity is a well-established doctrine in wildlife management, in good years more animals may be supported and in less years not so many, we may be at about that now.” Dr Friend said.

The Dryandra population will continue to be monitored.

“The basic reason for doing the surveys is to monitor the population in case there is any decline and then following it up.”

Dr Friend said that the numbats have benefited from the attention and actions of many groups.

“Project Numbat have been incredibly helpful with the surveys, in keeping them going and applying for money and giving support,” he said

“Rob and John have both been reliable members of the survey team and that’s been a boon to the project.”

The entry to the Dryandra Woodland.
Camera IconThe entry to the Dryandra Woodland. Credit: Daniel Rooney

The unique marsupials draw a large number of tourists to the region every year hoping to catch a glimpse and take a photo.

Mr McLean advises that the creatures are best observed from afar.

“Numbats have a limited feeding window, if you see one and it hides in a log and you wait around for an hour to take a photo, you’ve just had a massive impact on its feeding,” he said.

“Everybody has to realise that the animals’ welfare is more important than clicks.”

Numbat habitat.
Camera IconNumbat habitat. Credit: Daniel Rooney

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