Bettongs settling in well after century-long absence
Brush-tailed bettongs are thriving on South Australia's mainland thanks to a two-year program to reintroduce the species after a 100-year absence.
About 120 of the rare marsupials have been released into Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park as part of Marna Banggara, a project to restore lost wildlife to southern Yorke Peninsula.
Releases have included two cohorts from nearby Wedge Island and one group from the Upper Warren region of Western Australia, the last remaining stronghold for the species on the Australian mainland.
In recent monitoring, 85 bettongs were trapped and their health checked with about 40 per cent found to be new animals born in SA.
Of the 45 mature females checked, 42 were carrying young.
"It's fantastic to see so many new animals in the population," Northern and Yorke Landscape Board ecologist Derek Sandow said.
"It shows that the bettongs we released in 2021 and 2022 are comfortable in the landscape, they're finding food, they're finding shelter, and they're finding mates.
"We also caught bettongs from Wedge Island and Western Australia in the same areas, which is a good indicator that the two groups are mingling and breeding and that's great for the genetic health of the population."
Also known as yalgi in the language of the local Narungga People, brush-tailed bettongs disappeared from Yorke Peninsula more than a century ago due to habitat loss and the spread of predators including foxes and feral cats.
WWF Australia rewilding project manager Rob Brewster said the recent monitoring was the best indication yet that the species might be able to be successfully reintroduced where there was suitable habitat and ongoing predator control.
"If this population can be sustained over time, it would be the first successful reintroduction of this species beyond islands and fenced safe havens," Mr Brewster said.
Marna Banggara will release more bettongs from WA later this year to further bolster and increase the genetic diversity of the new population.
Other locally extinct species like the southern brown bandicoot, red-tailed phascogale and western quoll are also being considered for reintroduction to support the ecosystem.