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Returning the rat-kangaroos: translocation attempts in the family Potoroidae (superfamily Macropodoidea) and recommendations for conservation

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  • Bush Heritage Australia
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... General factors attributed to the decline of mammals in Australia include predation by foxes and feral cats, loss of habitat, competition with introduced herbivores such as rabbits, and changed fire regimes (Burbidge and McKenzie 1989), and these have been shown to apply to potoroids (Short 1998). Translocations are considered a vital tool for the conservation of this group (Finlayson et al. 2010). However, a recent review of translocations for the Potoroidae found that, of 50 translocations performed on three species, only one-third were successful (Finlayson et al. 2010). ...
... Translocations are considered a vital tool for the conservation of this group (Finlayson et al. 2010). However, a recent review of translocations for the Potoroidae found that, of 50 translocations performed on three species, only one-third were successful (Finlayson et al. 2010). The success of translocations of mammals in Australia is predominantly influenced by the presence of exotic predators (Sheean et al. 2012). ...
... Translocations to predator-free islands, or fenced predator-free areas, will play an integral role in the conservation of these species. To date, 50 translocations have been performed for three species of potoroid, with only 33.3% successful (Finlayson et al. 2010). While most failures have been caused by the presence of predators, knowledge of mating systems and dispersal patterns may improve translocation success. ...
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The northern bettong ( Bettongia tropica ) (Potoroidae), is an endangered macropod with a restricted distribution. We combined radio-tracking and trapping data with microsatellite genotypes to infer the mating system and local dispersal patterns of this species, and discuss their relevance to translocations. We defined the mating system as ‘overlap promiscuity’ (sensu Wittenberger 1979), though we cannot rule out serial monogamy. We found significant effects of proximity (average distance between parents = 190 m) and male weight, but not size, on the likelihood of paternity, suggesting that closer, heavier males have greater mating success. The average distance between putative pairs of relatives suggested that most dispersal occurred over short distances, with the distance between ‘related’ females significantly lower than that between related males (0.9 km versus 1.3 km). A spatial autocorrelation analysis showed high female relatedness across distances of up to 435 m, equivalent to half an average home range width. Conversely, male pairs had low relatedness across 0 to 870 m. These results suggested that female young often settle next to their mother, while males avoid nesting within their father’s home range. Both limited natal and ‘mating’ dispersal may have contributed to the strong genetic structure previously reported for this species.
... For example, 'Arid Recovery' (centred around a 123 km 2 fenced reserve) has been hailed as successful: four species of locally extinct mammals have been reintroduced, and the digging actions of bilbies and bettongs have been demonstrated to restore the arid landscapes through increasing seedling capture and germination (Newell 2008). Introductions and reintroductions (e.g. of bilbies, woylies, boodies, bandicoots) at other sites have had varying success, highlighting the necessity of controlling introduced predators (e.g. through baiting or predator-proof fencing) if projects are to be successful (Short et al. 1992, Finlayson et al. 2010, Dickman 2012. ...
... • Boodies were once widespread and abundant across ∼60% of mainland Australia (Short & Turner 1993). They were 'present in their hundreds' , and it was necessary to build fences to keep them away from newly sown seed or poison them to control numbers (Abbott 2008, Finlayson et al. 2010 and references therein). Today, apart from reintroductions, boodies are extinct on the mainland. ...
... This review highlights the vital roles that digging mammals play in ecosystem processes, which go beyond simply turning over soil, extending to nutrient cycling, enhancing plant recruitment and growth, providing habitat and potentially altering fire regimes. While there has been some success in reintroducing threatened species to predator-controlled areas such as islands or fenced reserves (Short et al. 1992, Finlayson et al. 2010, Dickman 2012, it needs to be recognised that management on a larger scale may be needed. Translocation of species that are still relatively common (e.g. ...
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Despite once being described as common, digging mammal species have been lost from the Australian landscape over the last 200 years. Around half of digging mammal species are now extinct or under conservation threat, and the majority of extant species have undergone marked range contractions.Our aim is to identify the role of digging mammals in ecosystem processes throughout Australia. We highlight how the actions of digging mammals are vital for maintaining ecosystem functioning and how their extirpation has led to loss of ecosystem functions.A review of the literature indicates that many aspects of the influence of bioturbation on ecosystem functioning have been studied. The role of digging mammals in arid and semi-arid zones has been previously established. We collate and review a broader scope of studies, including those carried out in the mesic woodlands and forests of Australia. We identify roles of digging mammals in the context of ecosystem functioning and conservation management.Bioturbation significantly alters soil processes, increasing soil turnover and altering the chemical and structural properties of soil. Greater water infiltration and decreased surface run-off and erosion alter soil hydrophobicity and increase soil moisture. Diggings capture organic matter, provide habitat for a diversity of microscopic and macroscopic organisms, and increase nutrient cycling. Mycophagous mammals disperse fungi (e.g. mycorrhizae), while all diggings can create suitable sites for fungal growth. Diggings also capture plant seeds, increasing seedling germination, recruitment and plant growth. The overall effect of mammal diggings is therefore increased plant vigour and resilience, increased biodiversity and consequently improved ecosystem functioning.We propose that the loss of digging mammals has contributed to the deterioration of ecosystems in Australia. Recognising the roles of digging mammals will inform potential management options such as species translocations or reintroductions.
... Many others have had their continental distributions reduced significantly (van Dyck & Strahan 2008), and 12 mainland taxa are currently listed as threatened under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Considering the current suite of extinction pressures threatening Australian fauna, animal translocation has become an increasingly important species recovery tool (Brown 1991, Kennedy 1992, Serena 1994, Finlayson et al. 2010. ...
... Australia-wide macropod translocations, which provided an overview and analysis of 25 translocations. Twelve species were released between 1905 and 1989, mainly with the aim of species conservation. Copley (1994) provided a detailed examination of mammal translocations in South Australia, including 17 macropod translocations conducted between 1907. Finlayson et al. (2010 reviewed 55 translocations of three species within the family Potoroidae conducted between 1977 and 2005. Many additional macropod translocations, not included in the three reviews, were attempted over the period 1969-2006. Further, the period from 1990 onwards has seen progress in a range of technologies that may assist the translocati ...
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1. Translocations have become an increasingly popular tool in threatened macropod conservation in Australia. Although previous evaluations of Australian macropod translocations have been published, the number of contemporary translocation programmes awaiting analysis, and new data regarding historic translocations, required a new assessment of macropod translocation programmes. 2. We aimed to assess trends in the way macropod translocations were conducted during the period 1969–2006, determine the number of successful translocations and identify factors common to successful translocations. 3. Data regarding macropod translocations were obtained from a wide variety of sources, including peer-reviewed journals, ‘grey’ literature and popular interest publications. Questionnaires were also sent to translocation managers to acquire detailed information. Specific aspects of macropod translocation methodology were analysed, and classification tree analysis was conducted to identify methodological and environmental factors common to successful translocations. 4. We identified 109 macropod translocations for which sufficient data could be collected to permit analysis. Using the presence of a population on 1 January 2007 as a simple criterion, 61% of translocations were successful. Of these translocations, 66% were also considered successful by Short et al.’s criteria (population persisted for five years and is deemed likely to continue to persist); the remainder could not be assessed due to lack of data or insufficient elapsed time since release. Classification tree analysis suggested methodological and environmental factors common to successful translocations; the overriding factor determining success was the absence of cats and foxes at the release site. 5. Although Australian macropod translocation proponents are faced with myriad methodological options when designing a translocation protocol, the primary consideration should be whether or not cats or foxes are present at the release site. Managers should be aware that there may be no safe population level of such predators for some translocation candidate species. Ignoring this fact will inevitably lead to a repeat of past translocation failures.
... Most sites without predators in this review were offshore islands rather than fenced reserves, and one site with a conservation fence -the Harry Waring Marsupial Reserve -was considered to be an area with predators as the fence did not constitute an effective barrier (Short et al. 1992 ) . Finlayson et al. ( 2010 ) reported similar results for bettongs. Thus, of 24 translocation attempts that could be judged a success or failure for the brush-tailed bettong B. penicillata , only one success occurred in the presence of introduced predators compared with six where predators had been excluded by fences or water barriers. ...
... The same authors reported four successful translocations of burrowing bettongs Bettongia lesueur into fenced reserves or islands. For both species failures occurred largely where animals had been moved to mainland areas, even if intensive efforts had been made to reduce the impacts of predators prior to the bettongs being reintroduced (Finlayson et al. 2010 ) . Winnard and Coulson ( 2008 ) reported 3/3 successful releases of eastern barred bandicoots into fenced sites in Victoria compared with just 1/5 into sites without fences. ...
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One of the most intractable problems for the conservation of many species of native Australian vertebrates is predation from the introduced red fox Vulpes vulpes and feral house cat Felis catus. In recent years, increasing use has been made of conservation fences that exclude these introduced species and provide protection for large and viable populations of high-value native species within the fenced areas. Most conservation fences are constructed from wire mesh with a buried apron running along the base of the fence on both sides, with or without an overhanging top and wires that carry electrical charge. Experimental trials suggest that fences should be at least 1.8 m high with metal supports that discourage animals from climbing. Four main rationales appear to underpin the construction of conservation fences. These are to: (1) conserve small and relict populations of highly threatened species in situ; (2) use the newly-protected areas as sites to reintroduce rare or threatened species of mammals, birds or reptiles that once occurred there; (3) display native species within confined but natural surroundings for educational and ecotourism purposes; and (4) serve dual educational and research functions. The second rationale is the most common, and also provides excellent opportunities to study reintroduction protocols and the biology of the species involved. The success rate of vertebrates released into predator-free areas averages about 80%, whereas that for animals released into unprotected sites varies from 0 to 60%. Despite such manifest benefit to native vertebrates, conservation fences are costly to construct and maintain; managers must be constantly vigilant to detect and manage incursions of predators when they occur. An efficient approach should seek to minimise the long-term management costs of fences by balancing the capital expenses of secure designs against the costs of coping with more frequent failures. Conservation fences represent an acknowledgement that we are failing to successfully conserve biodiversity, but also buy us time to develop new tools to control introduced predators throughout the landscape. While research is under way, I suggest that fences could be made more cost-effective by extending their benefits to the broader region. This could be achieved by allowing otherwise confined prey species to move into and out of protected areas, and by improving their chances of survival outside the fences. Novel fence designs, changes to fence position, number and configuration in the landscape are needed for such broader benefits to be realised.
... Their main prey are livestock and native fauna in the critical weight range [6][7][8]. Reintroduction programs of some threatened native mammalian species in this critical weight range (35 g to 5.5 kg) have shown that absence or tight control of foxes can be detrimental to the success of these programs [9][10][11][12]. Foxes compete with native species for habitat and resources and therefore threaten the presence of already declining native populations. ...
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The use of genetic information in conservation biology has become more widespread with genetic information more readily available for non-model organisms. It has also been recognized that genetic information from invasive species can inform their management and control. The red fox poses a significant threat to Australian native fauna and the agricultural industry. Despite this, there are few recently published studies investigating the population genetics of foxes in Australia. This study investigated the population genetics of 94 foxes across the Illawarra and Shoalhaven regions of New South Wales, Australia. Diversity Array sequencing technology was used to genotype a large number of single nucleotide polymorphisms (N = 33,375). Moderate genetic diversity and relatedness were observed across the foxes sampled. Low to moderate levels of inbreeding, high-levels of identity-by-state values, as well as high identity-by-descent values were also found. There was limited evidence for population genetic structure among the foxes across the landscape sampled, supporting the presence of a single population across the study area. This indicates that there may be no barriers hindering fox dispersal across the landscape.
... Historically woylies have had a wide distribution and therefore assumed to be highly adapted to different environments (from arid and semi-arid coastal and inland habitats to Mediterranean and temperate forests) and it is not expected that the genetic profile of individuals will influence their capacity to successfully settle in the colony at Whiteman Park or in future releases in the wild, should these being attempted. More than 3400 woylies were translocated to more than 61 sites between 1977 and 2006 (Groom, 2010;Orell, 2004) and, regardless of the genetic stock used, inadequate feral predator control was the primary cause of failure in this species (Finlayson et al. 2010;Short et al. 1992). ...
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Insular populations are particularly vulnerable to the effects of stochastic events, epidemics and loss of genetic diversity due to inbreeding and genetic drift. The development of successful management options will require accurate baseline data, establishment of clear objectives and finally monitoring and implementation of corrective measures, if and when required. This study assessed management options for the genetic rehabilitation of highly inbred woylies obtained from wildlife rehabilitation centres. The study generated genetic data for the woylie Bettongia penicillata from a conservation reserve and calculated measures of genetic diversity and individual relatedness. These data were fed into a population viability analysis (PVA) to test genetic outcomes in relation to different management actions. We demonstrated that a careful selection of the founder cohort produced a population with an expected heterozygosity of ∼70% for a window of approximately 10 years. A proposal to increase the size of the reserve available to the colony was shown to almost double the time at which the colony would retain heterozygosity levels of ≥ 70%. Additionally, developing a regular program of supplementation of unrelated woylies would result in a further improvement in their genetic value. This study demonstrated how the application of molecular techniques in combination with PVA can be beneficial for the management of rehabilitated wildlife otherwise considered of little conservation value. This approach can be applied to the management of breeding programs, but also to small, closed populations such as those found on islands, fenced enclosures, insurance populations and in zoological collections.
... Reintroduction into the wild is an important component of the conservation strategy being implemented for many threatened vertebrate species (Seddon et al. 2007; Maran et al. 2009). Most reintroductions have been of birds or eutherian mammals (Griffith et al. 1989), with few published studies being conducted on marsupials of the Americas or Australasia (Short et al. 1992; Copley 1994; Hardman and Moro 2006; Finlayson et al. 2010; Soderquist 2011). Of the latter, a small number have occurred in unfenced, wild environments and even fewer have utilised captive-bred marsupials for wild release (Backhouse et al. 1994; Friend and Thomas 2003; Morris et al. 2003; Short 2009; Sharp et al. 2010). ...
Article
Captive-bred brush-tailed rock-wallabies (BTRW) were reintroduced into the Grampians National Park, Australia, during 2008-12. Two release strategies (methods) were examined: 'Small release with supplementation' (Strategy 1) and 'Larger release, no supplementation' (Strategy 2). Of the 39 animals released, 18% survived. Thirty-six percent of all mortality occurred within the first 100 days. Under Strategy 1, 22 animals were released in five groups. Twenty deaths occurred across 48 months, with predation estimated to account for 15% of mortalities. Under Strategy 2, 17 individuals were reintroduced across one month. Twelve deaths occurred in the five months following release, with predation estimated to account for 83.4% of mortalities. Of the independent variables tested for their relationship to survival time after release, release strategy was the only significant predictor of survival time after release with the risk of death 3.2 times greater in Strategy 2. Independent variables tested for their relationship to predation risk indicated that release strategy was also the only significant predictor of predation risk, with the risk of death associated with predation 10.5 times greater in Strategy 2. Data suggested that fox predation was the main factor affecting BTRW establishment. Predation risk declined by 75% during the first six months after release. A significant positive relationship was also found between predation risk and colony supplementation events. We conclude that predation risk at Moora Moora Creek is reduced in releases of fewer animals, that it declines across time and that disturbing BTRW colonies through the introduction of new animals can increase predation risk. We recommend that future reintroductions should employ diverse exotic predator control measures at the landscape scale, time releases to periods of lowest predator activity, and limit colony disturbance to maintain group cohesion and social structure. Furthermore, the preferred method of population establishment should be single, small releases over multiple sites without supplementation. Further testing of the reintroduction biology of this species is urgently required.
... In recent years, there has been an exponential increase in the number of conservation translocation projects worldwide (Seddon et al., 2007), and there have been several excellent reviews of reintroduction/translocation success in particular taxa (e.g. Griffiths and Pavajeau, 2008;Finlayson et al., 2010) and of directions in the field more generally (Ewen et al., 2012a). However, despite this increase in conservation translocation research, much of this work has focused on more easily assessable aspects of translocation protocols, such as release techniques, or on readily measured demographic aspects, such as short-term survival rates. ...
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Conservation translocations aim to restore species to their indigenous ranges, protect populations from threats and/or reinstate ecosystem functions. They are particularly important for the conservation and management of rare and threatened species. Despite tremendous efforts and advancement in recent years, animal conservation translocations generally have variable success, and the reasons for this are often uncertain. We suggest that when little is known about the physiology and wellbeing of individuals either before or after release, it will be difficult to determine their likelihood of survival, and this could limit advancements in the science of translocations for conservation. In this regard, we argue that physiology offers novel approaches that could substantially improve translocations and associated practices. As a discipline, it is apparent that physiology may be undervalued, perhaps because of the invasive nature of some physiological measurement techniques (e.g. sampling body fluids, surgical implantation). We examined 232 publications that dealt with translocations of terrestrial vertebrates and aquatic mammals and, defining ‘success’ as high or low, determined how many of these studies explicitly incorporated physiological aspects into their protocols and monitoring. From this review, it is apparent that physiological evaluation before and after animal releases could progress and improve translocation/reintroduction successes. We propose a suite of physiological measures, in addition to animal health indices, for assisting conservation translocations over the short term and also for longer term post-release monitoring. Perhaps most importantly, we argue that the incorporation of physiological assessments of animals at all stages of translocation can have important welfare implications by helping to reduce the total number of animals used. Physiological indicators can also help to refine conservation translocation methods. These approaches fall under a new paradigm that we term ‘translocation physiology’ and represent an important sub-discipline within conservation physiology generally
... Wild resident possums survived on average for 182 days compared with 101 days for hand-reared and relocated individuals; 56% of the wild radio-tracked possums (n = 32) and 45% of reintroduced individuals (n = 86) succumbed to fox predation. Foxes have compromised or hampered the reintroductions of several other mediumsized species of mammals and birds, including brushtail possums Trichosurus vulpecula (Pietsch 1994), eastern barred bandicoots Perameles gunnii (Dufty et al. 1994), burrowing bettongs Bettongia lesueur, brush-tailed bettongs Bettongia penicillata (Finlayson et al. 2010) and malleefowl Leipoa ocellata (Priddel & Wheeler 1994. ...
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ABSTRACT • The successful introduction of the red fox Vulpes vulpes into Australia in the 1870s has had dramatic and deleterious impacts on both native fauna and agricultural production. Historical accounts detail how the arrival of foxes in many areas coincided with the local demise of native fauna. Recent analyses suggest that native fauna can be successfully reintroduced to their former ranges only if foxes have been controlled, and several replicated removal experiments have confirmed that foxes are the major agents of extirpation of native fauna. Predation is the primary cause of losses, but competition and transmission of disease may be important for some species. • In agricultural landscapes, fox predation on lambs can cause losses of 1–30%; variation is due to flock size, health and management, as well as differences in the timing and duration of lambing and the density of foxes. • Fox control measures include trapping, shooting, den fumigation and exclusion fencing; baiting using the toxin 1080 is the most commonly employed method. Depending on the baiting strategy, habitat and area covered, baiting can reduce fox activity by 50–97%. We review patterns of baiting in a large sheep-grazing region in central New South Wales, and propose guidelines to increase landholder awareness of baiting strategies, to concentrate and coordinate bait use, and to maximize the cost-effectiveness of baiting programs. • The variable reduction in fox density within the baited area, together with the ability of the fox to recolonize rapidly, suggest that current baiting practices in eastern Australia are often ineffective, and that reforms are required. These might include increasing landholder awareness and involvement in group control programs, and the use of more efficient broadscale techniques, such as aerial baiting.
... In addition, an analysis of the translocated rock-wallaby populations on Middle-South Pearson and Wedge Islands will enable the genetic effects of managementinduced population bottlenecks to be investigated. This is significant, since translocations often from single source populations are increasingly being used to manage rock-wallabies (Barlow 1999;Eldridge et al. 2001a;Johnson et al. 2003) and other species (Short and Turner 2000;Langford and Burbidge 2001;Richards and Short 2003;Finlayson et al. 2010). ...
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A morphologically distinct subspecies of black-footed rock-wallaby (Petrogale lateralis pearsoni), is naturally found only on North Pearson Island (~160 ha) in the Investigator Group, SA, where it was isolated by rising sea levels ~10 500 years ago. Subsequent translocations have seen additional populations established on Middle-South Pearson Island (~53 ha) in 1960 and Wedge Island (96 ha) in 1975. We have used 10 hypervariable microsatellite loci to examine the levels of genetic diversity in the endemic (n = 38) and translocated (n = 45–77) P. l. pearsoni populations compared with mainland P. lateralis populations (n = 19–52). Results show that all sampled P. l. pearsoni populations have very low levels of genetic diversity (A = 1.5–1.9; HE = 0.02–0.13) compared with mainland populations (A = 3.5–12.7; HE = 0.54–0.87). Intriguingly, more diversity was detected in the translocated Middle-South Pearson population than in its source population from North Pearson Island. In contrast, the Wedge Island population was almost monomorphic. Overall, the severe loss of genetic diversity (up to 98%) in P. l. pearsoni populations appears to result from random genetic drift on a small isolated population, exacerbated by some subsequent one-off translocation events. Although additional supplementary translocations are recommended to enhance genetic diversity, populations of P. l. pearsoni are likely to remain inherently vulnerable to extinction and therefore of special conservation concern.
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The long-nosed potoroo Potorous tridactylus is a threatened, terrestrial forest dwelling marsupial. Much of the geographical range of the long-nosed potoroo is found within fifty kilometres of Australia’s eastern seaboard which has undergone rapid urban development in the last thirty years. Habitat modification, along with fox predation, has suppressed populations over the last 100 years, and has caused many local extinctions and range declines. Research on populations of the long-nosed potoroo across its geographical range has revealed regional differences in morphology and behaviour. Therefore, although the longnosed potoroo has been studied in contiguous and fragmented environments, there are still gaps in understanding the patterns and processes that may affect the ecology of the species at the local scale. The focus of this study is a population of long-nosed potoroos that persist at Red Bluff, a 100 hectare reserved area in the town of Lake Tyers Beach, East Gippsland. Originally a subpopulation, recent local extinctions to the west which are almost certainly attributed to increased urbanisation, has left the Red Bluff population isolated. Little is known about the ecology of this remnant population which makes conservation measures to preserve it difficult. In 2010 and 2011 I researched ecological aspects of the long-nosed potoroo at Red Bluff, focussing on density, population dynamics and distribution of the species, as well as the presence of introduced predators which occurred in the reserve. My aims were to expand the knowledge of the long-nosed potoroo and to determine the extent to which fragmentation and habitat loss has affected the population. Hair-tubes, cage traps and remote cameras were used over different seasons to determine the occupancy status of the long-nosed potoroo in and around Red Bluff. The long-nosed potoroo was found across the reserve in all dominant forest types and although some sites showed a more reliable occupancy than others, vegetation class did not seem to be an important determinant of occurrence. The wide distribution of the long-nosed potoroo at Red Bluff was suggestive instead to be aligned with occurrence of a dense but patchy understorey. No potoroos were detected on the eastern edge of the reserve or state forest and nearby forest fragments. Therefore although fragmentation does not currently appear to be affecting the ii occupancy of the long-nosed potoroo within Red Bluff, it seems isolation is impeding colonisation and dispersal. A mark recapture trapping study conducted at two independent trap sites (consisting of 29 trap locations and 280 trap nights) yielded 28 captured individuals. Using Jolly-Seber and Minimum Known to be Alive estimators I calculated a population size of 21individuals. After applying a buffer on the trap sites calculated from half the mean maximum distance travelled by potoroos on the trapping grid, a density per hectare of 1.4 was derived, which corresponded to a population of 100 individual potoroos for the entire reserved area at Red Bluff. More than 70% of individuals were recaptured throughout the study revealing a relatively stable population. Information collected from trapped animals showed highly overlapping home ranges both between individuals and within and between sexes. Adult females carried pouch young continually, although a birthing spike was evident each winter. Potoroos were sexually dimorphic, with an average weight of 856 grams for males and 737grams for females. Cameras deployed in Red Bluff for the first six months of 2011 and scat collection over the study period was undertaken to assess the status of introduced predators. Foxes Vulpes vulpes, cats Felis catus and dogs Canis lupus familiaris were found however cats were not caught on camera. Introduced predators mostly consumed native prey, however, long-nosed potoroos were not found in any of the analysed scats (N = 25). Foxes were the most numerous and widespread introduced predator, and appeared to be increasing. Domestic dogs also appeared at camera sites. Feral cats although present appeared to be in low densities. Continued regular baiting and monitoring of introduced predators is essential for the persistence of the long-nosed potoroo at Red Bluff. The population of long-nosed potoroos at Red Bluff are currently found in high densities and appear relatively fit however isolation has led to a precarious persistence that will likely require diligent and coordinated conservation intervention into the future. Holistic on ground management would include regular monitoring of the population, regular baiting for introduced predators, and maintenance of the understorey structure at Red Bluff. Landscape management should also include assisting in colonisation and dispersal of potoroos, and the maintenance of heterozygosity, which could be achieved in the short term by introducing new genetically distinct individuals from nearby populations, and in the long term by providing a dispersal corridor to contiguous forest.
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Recent technological advances have resulted in a dramatic renaissance of population genetics and its application to species ecology and conservation. This review summarizes the progress made in applying these new techniques, notably hypervariable genetic markers (microsatellite loci and mitochondrial control region), to the study of marsupials. Since 1990, population genetic studies have overwhelmingly been of marsupial species from eastern and southern Australia, largely focusing on threatened species or those with restricted distributions. To date, over 500 polymorphic microsatellite loci have been isolated from 38 marsupial species (six American, 32 Australian), including representatives from 13 of the 18 extant marsupial families. Levels of microsatellite diversity identified within the 209 marsupial populations (43 species) so far examined have varied greatly, although the range is similar to those reported from eutherians and other vertebrates. Marsupial populations with high levels of genetic diversity tend to be those from relatively abundant or widespread species, while those with lower levels are typically species with restricted distributions, that are threatened, found on islands or have been established via translocation. Although data for most families are still limited, bandicoots, koalas and wombats appear less and phalangerids more diverse than the marsupial average. The application of these hypervariable genetic markers to investigate marsupial species ecology has substantially improved our understanding of population biology, behaviour and reproduction in many species, as well as informing conservation initiatives and management plans for many threatened marsupial taxa. It is hoped that in the future, marsupial population genetic studies can be expanded to include a larger number of South American and New Guinean species, as well as a better representation of arid, tropical, widespread and abundant Australian species.
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