On December 6, ten of the nineteen Numbats, born this year at Perth Zoo, were fitted with radio collars and released into the wild of Australia’s second largest feral cat-free area.
The eleven-month-old Numbats, born under a collaborative breeding program between Perth Zoo and Parks and Wildlife Service, were released at Mt. Gibson Sanctuary managed by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy in WA’s mid-west.
Prior to the release, Perth Zoo Keeper, Jessica Morrison, said, “The release of our Numbats to the wild is the culmination of a lot of hard work, but the ultimate goal of our breeding program, the only one in the world for this endangered species.”
“It is particularly exciting to release them at Mt Gibson Sanctuary as Perth Zoo’s Wildlife Conservation Action fundraising program helped fund the predator proof fence, and the removal of feral cats and foxes is key to the survival of the Numbat which have been decimated by introduced predators.”
“We released our first Zoo-born Numbats to the same area last year, and they’ve since had offspring! We hope this year’s wild recruits will follow in their footsteps and help build a robust insurance population against extinction.”
Perth Zoo and Parks and Wildlife Service established the Numbat breeding program in 1987, studying and perfecting the species’ reproductive biology over the next five years. The first successful breeding at Perth Zoo was in 1993. Since then more than 200 individuals have been released to the wild which has helped re-establish four populations within their former range.
In preparation for their life in the wild, the Numbats were fitted with radio collars by Dr. Tony Friend from Parks and Wildlife Service. “Radio tracking will enable researchers to learn more about the Numbats’ movements and enable field staff to determine if female Numbats have reproduced at the completion of the mating season,” he said.
Funding for the radio collars was generously provided by the community group, “Project Numbat”.
The Numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus) is a marsupial native to Western Australia and recently re-introduced to South Australia. Its diet consists almost exclusively of termites.
The Numbat is Western Australia’s mammal emblem and is listed as “Endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Approximately 1,000 Numbats remain in the wild.
Perth Zoo is committed to native species conservation, with dedicated breeding facilities located behind the scenes at the Zoo. This year, the 4,000th animal bred or reared at the Zoo was released into the wild. Species currently being bred for release at the Zoo to fight extinction include: Numbat, Dibbler, Western Swamp Tortoise and rare frogs found only in the Margaret River region.