Winter 2001
Tropical Truffle Eater Threatened by Rainforest!

 

by

Martin Fingland
Ranger
Brisbane Forest Park

It is not often that rainforest can be blamed as a threat to the survival of an animal, but in the case of a small wallaby-like animal called the Northern Bettong (Bettongia tropica); the spread of rainforest into its preferred habitat of drier eucalypt forest is squeezing it out.

 

This Bettong is closely related to the Brush-tailed Bettong or Woylie from W.A.    Like its western relative, the Northern Bettong has a fondness for truffles (underground fungi).    In fact it is thought to be the only specialist ‘tropical truffle eating mammal’ in Australia.

 

Bettongs are Rabbit sized marsupials that were once found across large areas of Australia.    However, like many small, ground living native animals, they have become rare due to the twin forces of habitat destruction and predation by introduced animals such as cats and foxes.

 

The Northern Bettong only occurs in a few isolated forests on the Western edge of the Wet Tropics Region near Cairns and is regarded as an endangered species.    Past and present land management practices including inappropriate fire regimes, logging and grazing are causing the spread of rainforest into its habitat and this is regarded as a key threatening process to the bettongs continued survival.

 

As part of the effort to save the Northern Bettong, a captive management plan has been devised and animals are being held and bred in a number of Queensland wildlife parks.    The management program that is being coordinated through the David Fleay Wildlife Park, will ensure a captive population is available for study, maintaining the genetic diversity of the species, and possibly for release in the future.

 

Brisbane Forest Park has been a part of the captive management program for 12 months now and has already had a successful breeding of the species.    Whilst Bettongs are nocturnal, secretive species, they are on display in the Walk-about Creek Wildlife Centre and lucky visitors may get a glimpse of them.    Better still, if you want to discover more about this unique species and the other residents of Walk-about Creek, book on to our activity “Evening With the Animals” on Saturday the 13th of October 2001

 

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This article was printed with kind permission from Brisbane Forest Park and the authors.    This article first appeared in the Spring 2001 edition of their quarterly newspaper the “Bush Telegraph”.

 

Brisbane Forest Park is found at 60 Mt. Nebo Road, The Gap, Queensland and can be contacted on (07) 3300 4855

 
 
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