Brushtail bettongs are being reintroduced to the Northern Territory after being locally extinct for at least 60 years.

Also known as woylies, 44 of the little marsupials – 22 females and 22 males – arrived this week on charter planes and were released at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary, 360 kilometers northwest of Alice Springs, in central Australia.

Woylies were once widespread in the Northern Territory and many other parts of the country, but their populations were devastated by cats and wild foxes.

Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) ecologist Kirsten Skinner said the release was an “important step”.

“[It was] It’s a pleasure for the team at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary to have such an amazing opportunity to make history and reintroduce a locally extinct species to the ecosystem, ”said Ms. Skinner.

Two charter planes transported the 70 woylies from Wheatbelt in Western Australia to Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary, northwest of Alice Springs. (

Provided: Australian Wildlife Conservancy

)

To mark its 30th year of conservation work, AWC flew the woylies from the Mount Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary in Western Australia and released them to a 9,400 hectare wild predator-free area northwest of Western Australia. Alice Springs.

Protected from cats and foxes, woylies will now have the ability to survive and grow in numbers.

person wearing a green sweater releasing a small marsupial from a blue cloth bag
The number of woylies declined across Australia following European settlement, but it is hoped that they will recover in central Australia. (

Provided: Brad Leue

)

“Ecosystem engineers”

With four strong legs, woylies scavenge the landscape for food like bush potatoes and other types of tubers.

“Having them here in Newhaven is a real boon, not only to have the species here, but also to help them improve the ecosystem for the benefit of all the species that we have here on the property.”

Stay alive

Environmentalists hope the 70 marsupials released near Alice Springs will spawn the first generation of locally raised woylies in more than a century.

Some animals were fitted with tracking collars and camera traps were installed to monitor their adaptation to their new environment.

small bilby-like marsupial jumping on red earth
Small populations of woylies exist in the wild in southwest Western Australia.(

Provided: Brad Leue

)

Less than 15,000 woylies remain in the wild and nearly 10% of the world’s surviving population are protected by AWC in fenced-off, predator-proof areas in Western Australian sanctuaries, from South Australia and now the Northern Territory.

AWC is planning a new reintroduction of woylies to a wildlife-free refuge in Mallee Cliffs National Park in New South Wales later this year.


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