Photo: Eastern Barred Bandicoot at Poimena Reserve, Tasmania – JJ Harrison

This article featured in Wildlife Lands Issue 10

Bandicoots are a group of approximately 20 species of small, solitary, omnivorous marsupials which - aside from three species found in New Guinea - are endemic to Australia.  They are primarily nocturnal and live in a wide variety of habitats including rainforests, heathlands, and wet and dry woodlands. They build shallow, leaf lined nests in holes in the ground, which are often hidden under debris and nestled in dense patches of brush.  A variety of food sources are eaten by these species which are perhaps best known for the snout-shaped holes they leave around the place, including insects and insect larvae, worms, spiders, plant tubers, roots and truffle-like fungi.

Although the majority of bandicoot species are very restricted in their geographic range, some such as the southern brown bandicoot have a relatively broad distribution across Australia with several distinct subspecies occupying different ecological niches throughout their range.  However even with their ability to adapt, southern brown bandicoots are under great pressure, with most populations diminishing considerably since European colonisation.  The species is now very patchily distributed in isolated populations across their former range.

According to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, 1999, three species of bandicoot (the pig-footed bandicoot, mainland subspecies of western barred bandicoot, and desert bandicoot) have become extinct since European settlement of Australia.  With another three species classified as endangered and four as vulnerable, it is clear that bandicoots are suffering from a number of threats present in their habitats.

Very few native animals prey on bandicoots, with owls, quolls and dingoes being their only significant natural predators.  However introduced animals such as foxes, dogs, and both domestic and feral cats combine to pose a significant threat to several bandicoot species.  Expanding human populations have increased road construction, housing developments and other pressures which are responsible for displacing and severely fragmenting bandicoot populations, increasing their vulnerability to the threats of predators and motor vehicles.

Due to the diverse range of habitat types represented by Australian WLT sanctuaries, protection efforts for the large majority of bandicoot species endemic to Australia are enhanced through our members' dedication to providing a safe place for native wildlife.  Additionally, the HSI/WLT Threatened Ecological Communities Nomination Program continues to seek protection for large areas of vegetation under threat, assisting the survival prospects for native species such as bandicoots in a world which, for our wildlife, is ever shrinking.