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Backyard Bandicoots at Mandurah

When visiting St Ives Mandurah the chances of spotting wildlife are quite high. Among the many different species that call the area home, you may find a bandicoot. Last year, the our Mandurah village was involved in a research program called ‘Backyard Bandicoots’ which aims to find out more about this little animal. St Ives Mandurah resident Bill King, a keen nature photographer, was excited to share his take on the findings of the program:

On Tuesday 28th November 2017, at the clubhouse, St Ives Village Mandurah, PhD student Janine Kuehs presented preliminary findings on the research programme “Backyard Bandicoots” which was conducted in conjunction with Amanda Kristancic, Catherine Baudains, Giles Hardy and Patricia Fleming of Murdoch University at the Village and surrounding St Ives Peninsular Reserve.

Quenda (Southern Brown Bandicoot) are a nocturnal ground-dwelling marsupial found in the South West of WA. With a life span of 3 to 5 years they can breed all year (mainly between July and February) and they usually have 2 to 4 joeys at a time. Their gestation period is approximately 12 days and pouch life can be up to sixty days. The pouch faces backwards so that when digging for food the pouch does not fill with soil.

Their habitat around Mandurah is in bushland where undergrowth is considered most important for their habitat. They dig small vertical pits for their food which consists of  tubers, fungi, grubs and invertebrates.

A single Quenda can dig up to 45 pits a day which is equal to about 4 tonnes a year of soil turned over. This digging has several benefits including dispersal of mycorrhizal fungi that is important for tree health, increased water infiltration and nutrient capture leading to improved soil quality and improved seeding recruitment. The turnover of leaf litter also helps to reduce fuel loads making bushfires less severe. All these ecosystem services mean Quenda are important for keeping urban bushland healthy, so we want to keep them around urban areas.

The spreading of urban development is a threat to their livelihood with habitat loss and the fragmentation of bushland. Other factors threatening their existence include dogs, cats, foxes and vehicle strike. The research objectives were to determine what kind of residential gardens were preferred by Quenda.

To find some answers to this question motion sensor cameras were installed in the yards of a number of residents for short periods from April to September 2017. Cameras were also placed in the adjacent remnant vegetation for comparison with more natural Quenda activity. Residents were also interviewed regarding when they see Quenda and how they use their backyards. A feature survey was conducted for elements of a backyard that could contribute to Quenda preference

The predictions are that quenda would prefer gardens with dense vegetation and mulch. However, so far there is no conclusive evidence that they avoided less diggable ground or where cats and dogs were present. There was more daytime activity observed where cats were not present (St Ives Mandurah does not permit cats in the village). However, so far there is no conclusive evidence that they avoided less diggable ground or where cats and dogs were present. There was more daytime activity observed where cats were not present and there was evidence of higher activity in gardens where food was provided.

It is proposed to undertake more research in 2018 with some GPS tracking to see how far they travel and from where, and to resample gardens to get summer activity information.

The residents involved and others who were interested in this delightful little furry animal enjoyed the programme as one of the many features of this wonderful environment we have at the village.

Funding and support for this project was acknowledged to Murdoch University, City of Mandurah and Australian research Council.

Bill King,
St Ives Retirement Village Mandurah

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