FOCUS SPECIES

Eastern Barred Bandicoot

Conservation status: endangered

Banner image, Eastern Barred Bandictoot at Mt Rothwell. Photo by Maryann Thorp

A couple of decades ago, many people believed that the Eastern Barred Bandicoot had been completely wiped out on mainland Australia. However, the discovery of a small population living at a tip in Hamilton, western Victoria, drastically changed the trajectory of the species.

From that one wild population, many hundreds have been bred in captivity and released into predator-free ecosystems, including Odonata’s keystone sanctuary, Mt Rothwell. In 2004, 24 bandicoots were returned to Mt Rothwell to establish our Eastern Barred Bandicoot breeding program and since then thousands have been bred and released; several generations later Odonata can boast establishing the longest self-sustaining most wild population of Eastern Barred Bandicoots on the mainland of Australia at Mt Rothwell.

So much of Odonata’s hard work breeding and researching this species has paid off, with a great success marked in 2021 when the Eastern Barred Bandicoot’s status was in Victoria from extinct in the wild to endangered. 

An important step in this process of down-listing the Eastern Barred Bandicoot was releasing a group of 30 bandicoots at our Tiverton Farm sanctuary in October 2020. Tiverton is a working merino sheep farm and is now also the largest predator free ecosystem in Victoria. Alongside sheep, the Eastern Barred Bandicoots play a critical role in the grassland environment. While searching for food in the soil, these animals create little conical holes that can break up dense grasses to encourage the growth of native grasses and wildflowers. Additionally, their digging is able to soften the ground, turns over leaf litter and spreads important soil microbes, which in turn assists in developing a diverse habitat that is less prone to bushfires.

The results at Tiverton of adding the bandicoots to the ecosystem have meant that the land is regenerated in a way that has not been seen for a number of decades and the quality of wool being produced by the sheep has been enhanced due to the improved pastures.