Category Archives: bandicoot issues

De-listing of the Southern Brown Bandicoot- an act of vandalism to promote urban sprawl

Delisting of the Southern Brown Bandicoot

The Director

Marine and Freshwater Species Conservation Section

Wildlife, Heritage and Marine Division

Department of the Environment

PO Box 787 Canberra ACT 2601

I’ve been involved with Southern Brown Bandicoots (SBB) for more than 40 years. I live in Frankston where I remember SBBs all over the Mornington Peninsula, in the Frankston area and in the Pines Flora and Fauna Reserve where they were recognised as the largest and strongest colony in the region. Sadly, I have observed them gradually disappearing from all of these areas and in many of these places they have become extinct.

How could this be allowed to happen? Since 2001, went on the endangered list, a SBB recovery group was established. SBBs were selected as the flagship species in the Western Port Biosphere Reserve so they would receive special attention. At least five major workshops were held involving hundreds of people, among them scientists, government agencies, private consultants and landholders. In addition, countless meetings of the SBB recovery team were held at many places. During this time the Victorian government created strategies for the recovery and protection of them but none work.

Sadly, no SBBs or habitat areas were recovered anywhere in this region. At the Pines, where some SBBs were still remaining, at least $120,000 was spent on fox and cat control. It was unsuccessful and the last SBBs were lost as well. It is now high time to admit to the grand failure in protecting this species especially in this region.

As I understand, SBBs are not a corridor living species and need to be provided with habitat in large reserves like Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne and could be in the Pines Reserve, Briars Park in Mt Martha & several other reserves that are surrounded by a predator-proof fence. We desperately need some insurance colonies before we gamble with the rest that still survive in the wild.

If this current scenario continues, we will soon reach the point where the SBB species will collapse as the Eastern Barred Bandicoot did. At the lowest stage, only 50 animals survived.

Captive breeding had to prevent them from becoming extinct on the mainland. Even after numbers increased, the government managed to make some huge blunders with them.


(image: This little fellow was photographed in the Cranbourne Botanical Gardens.  This area is ~350 hectares of native bushland including an “Australian Garden”. )

Why have we not learned from this? My question is: what is gained by delisting SBBs? Will the government be able to save some money on fox and cat control and will developers receive the green light to build houses in bandicoot habitat? We certainly have not been told everything. To declare SBBs safe because in one or two areas where fox control slightly increased their numbers is absolutely ridiculous. Take that money away and see what will happen.

Hans Brunner M. App. Sc. Deakin University

HB:  While threats, and extinction, are normal processes of evolution, what we have now is not normal, or avoidable.  The loss of another iconic native mammal is a deliberate action, a choice to prioritize housing growth, urban sprawl, over habitats. 

This de-listing of the SBB is not because their threats have been mitigated, and now there are abundant, safe colonies!  On the contrary, their habitats will be invaded and their lives destroyed.

In a void of manufacturing, mining, innovation and technological advances, housing growth- driven by high levels of immigration – is a major industry now.  It means swallowing up grasslands, native vegetation, digging up fertile soils, and stagnating it all with concrete, roads and housing!

De-listing the SSB is an act of vandalism, and a sacrificing of another species in Australia to the already growing list of threatened and extinct species. AWPC Editor

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Magpies, kookaburras and willie wagtails among common Australian birds ‘starting to disappear’,

Magpies, laughing kookaburras and willie wagtails are on the decline in some regions, a report tracking the health of Australia’s bird populations has found.  Birdlife Australia, analysed data collected in more than 400,000 surveys across the country, the majority done by bird-loving volunteers.  The State of Australia’s Birds Report states that while predators including cats, habitat loss and even changes in climate might be to blame, more research was needed before certain species became endangered.  Habitat loss and changes are polite euphemisms for human destruction, such as land clearing and degradation for mining, logging, industries and urbanization!

(image: “Poser (543749091)” by aussiegall from Sydney, Australia – PoserUploaded by russavia. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Sightings of kookaburras have decreased at a rate of 40 per cent across south-eastern Australia. Magpies have declined significantly on the east coast, a new report shows. The Eastern curlew, a migratory shorebird that has recently been declared critically endangered.

Editor of Australian Birdlife Sean Dooley said the decline of common birds in parts of Australia was a surprise to researchers.

Numbats, malas, bandicoots and bettongs are among the mammals the Federal Government’s identified in its new Threatened Species Strategy. The birds include the mallee emu-wren and Norfolk Island boobook owl.

The Environment Minister Greg Hunt says feral cats are a serious threat to native species and that he wants the feral animals eradicated from five islands and 10 mainland enclosures within five years. Hunt has also set a target of 10 new cat-free enclosures on mainland Australia by 2020.

Dr Euan Ritchie is with Deakin University. He wants native predators like dingoes and Tasmanian devils reintroduced, as a natural way of culling foxes and cats. This is an enlightened approach to the status of Dingoes that have been vilified and trapped over decades as a threat to livestock! He also wants Tasmanian devils back to the mainland.

Ms Jane Nathan says in The Age 16 July 2015 that Melbourne is headed for eight million by 2050, and goes on to describe what it will be like in the most wildly optimistic tones imaginable. She says “our social harmony, kaleidoscopic culture, clean food, innovative education systems and greatly reduced crime rates are the envy of the world. Our neighbourhoods are artistic, green and pristine”.

According to MP Kelvin Thomson, in the Federal seat of Wills, it “Sounds like paradise. The problem is, there is no evidence to support it…And as for green and pristine, just this week it was reported that even common Australian birds, like the Willy Wagtail and the Kookaburra, were being sighted much less frequently. The reason for this is that the streets of mature gardens that used to give our birds food and shelter have been replaced by multi-unit developments and high rise. The vegetation has been destroyed, and the birds have died out”.

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Not Just Bandicoots! – Hans Brunner

Not Just Bandicoots.

Bandicoots are a unique marsupial abut the size of a young rabbit and are closely related to the much adored bilby. Females have a pouch like kangaroos but their pouch is opening backwards so that the young have to get in and out through the “backdoor”. This is because bandicoots dig in the soil for grubs and, hence, would fill their pouch with soil.

They have a long nose with a highly developed olfactory system. Their long nose is lined with lots of sensitive receptors and neurons in order to detect food buried deep in the soil. They can detect the exact location of a grub 20 cm deep under the soil and pin-point exactly to it when digging for it.They dig very rapidly with their long fore-claws and within seconds they find their meal.


In addition, their conical diggings left behind are of great importance to the environment (Patricia Flemming etal). These diggings increase soil turnover, alter plant community composition and structure, trap rainwater for better water infiltration, capture bio-mater for nutrient cycling, and add to fungal and seed dispersal.

The presence of diggings can also prevent tree mortality and tree-die-off while the dispersal of fungal spores will speed up leaf-litter break down and so reduce the fire hazard.


(image: Little Aussie Digger, from Backyard Bandicoots)

Sadly, bandicoots are extremely vulnerable to the introduced predators such as dogs, foxes and cats as well as the reduction and fragmentation of their habitat. They are now on the national endangered list. One would think that the extreme usefulness and aesthetic value of these cute animals would be enough to want them to be protected at all cost but thus is not the case.The problem: they are not as popular as a kangaroos, or a koalas and are not quite like bilbys.


(image: ecologist, Hans Brunner)

Featured image: Eastern Barred Bandicoot – Parks Victoria volunteer program.

The Eastern Barred Bandicoot is one of Victoria’s most endangered marsupials, with over 99% of their native grassland habitat cleared for agriculture and urban development. The species in Victoria is now classified as ‘Extinct in the Wild’, and small Eastern Barred Bandicoot populations only exist due to captive breeding programs in wildlife parks and key locations around the state.

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Southern Brown Bandicoot’s declining numbers in south east Victoria

THE federal Department of the Environment earlier this was trying to take the southern brown bandicoot off its threatened species list. However, Federal Environment minister Greg Hunt rejected claims his government doing this. He was responding to an article pub­lished in The Times last month (‘Bandicoot under threat from govt’, The Times 26/1/15).

In 2001 when the species was put on the endangered list, a SBB recovery groups was establish and they were selected as the flagship species in the Western Port Biosphere Reserve, to receive special attention. Hundreds of people, including scientists and government agencies, private consultants and landholders had workshops, and the Victorian government created strategy after strategy to protect them, but nothing worked.

A proposal for habitat corridors for the SBB in the draft Biodiversity Conservation Strategy, released in 2011, was withdrawn by the State Government and revised using consultation. The proposal is that there should be at least two 80m wide corridors leading to reserves to the south and reserves or Green Wedge land to the east – to ensure the sustainability of the species. The former Growling Grass Frog corridor along Clyde Creek should be reinstated.

There is too much of the Biodiversity Conservation Strategy that’s left to the Precinct Structure Planning process, rather than an independent role of a monitor to ensure impartiality.

In March 2014, the Coalition state government removed habitat corridors from its plans to protect the southern brown bandicoot in the southeast. and DEPI and Parks Victoria declared a secret war on Southern Brown Bandicoot ~ April 2014

Once common in the south-east, now, just two viable populations remain in the region – at Royal Botanic Gardens in Cranbourne and in undeveloped parts of Koo Wee Rup at the northern end of Western Port. A third population on Quail Island in Western Port has been decimated by wild pigs released on the island by hunters. The SBB is listed as an important component of the Ecological Character of the Western Port Bay Ramsar site and there is continuity of local populations of bandicoots with areas traversed by the Koo Wee Rup Bypass

Southern_Brown_Bandicoot_Victoria(image: Southern Brown Bandicoot, Cranbourne Vic 1984)

They proposed to conduct regulars fox and cat control programs in the Pines for the protection of this species, knowing very well that SBB’s are not there anymore.(Already costing well over $ 100.000.00) They refuse to install a predator-proof fence around the Pines which is the only realistic way to protect the SBB in the Pines ones re-introduced. (They just want that money)

Ecologist Hans Brunner, from Frankston, has been involved with Southern Brown Bandicoots (SBB) for more than 40 years. He vividly remembers finding SBB all over the Mornington Peninsula, in the Frankston area, and especially in the Pines Flora and Fauna Reserve which had the larges and strongest colony in the region. Sadly, they have silently disappeared and in many places they’ve become extinct!

How could this happen?

Local wildlife expert Mr Legg said evidence of SBB populations recovering in a couple of places in Australia was no reason to remove legal protection. He had “reluctantly watched the crash and local extinction of SBB populations across the southeastern suburbs of greater Melbourne and within the Western Port catchment” over the past three decades.

The SBB is facing strong competition from housing growth, and urbanisation. The number of dwellings in Mornington Peninsula Shire is forecast to grow from 84,177 in 2011 to 95,955 in 2026. It’s the housing industry that’s become Victoria’s greatest growth industry, and the urban growth boundary is a slippery concept, that keeps expanding with population growth.

At least $120,000 was spent on fox and cat control, while some SBBs remained. It was unsuccessful. Protecting SBB in the region is a grand failure. What’s needed are large reserves surrounded by predator-proof fences. Some insurance colonies are need, with the rest surviving in the wild.

What’s to be gained by de-listing the SBB? Money will be saved by not having to spend in fox and cat control, and developers will be given more permits to build housing.

Jennifer Cunich, executive director of the Property Council, of course would not endorse any expansion of wildlife corridors. She dismissed any science, and any scheme would be of little benefit. It would be like a brewery recommending an AA group!

The SBB is restricted to remnant and exotic vegetation along drains and road reserves in the project area and surrounding landscape which provides cover from predators.

The VicRoads Bypass alignment intersects habitat for the SBB along the existing Healesville Koo Wee Rup Road to the south of Manks Road and core habitat of the Dalmore Koo Wee Rup Cluster of bandicoots at Railway Road/disused South Gippsland Railway Line and levees of the Bunyip River Drain Complex.

There’s no room for complacency, or sitting back watching decline. What’s needed now is to repopulate the Pines Flora and Fauna Reserve, and protect the colonies at Cranbourne Botanic gardens. Australia has the highest mammal extinction rate of the modern world, and any “fauna” reserve and green wedges must have local native species. It’s easy to say there are “plenty” elsewhere, but extinction is a process, not one event, and allowing local extinctions is part of a process that MUST stop!

Screenshot from 2015-05-07 10:44:08

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The Southern Brown Bandicoot Dilemma- Hans Brunner

The SBB dilemma

For the last 13 years, the nationally endangered Southern Brown Bandicoot has been proclaimed with great hype and expectation as a flagship species in the local biosphere region. They were still prevalent on the Mornington Peninsula and in the Frankston area including the Pines. Sadly, because of incompetence and to a degree of unwillingness by DEPI and Parks Victoria, this species has now become totally extinct on the Pen. and in the Frankston area including the Pines.

The Southern Brown Bandicoot Recovery Group (SBBRG) was also not able to arrest this loss. Their current strategies to just provide corridors for them in order to restore them to where they have been lost has also failed. Wildlife corridors are extremely appealing to most people, but there is very little understanding of the many implications and difficulties involved. For example, what fauna species are still there to use them, is the vegetation type suitable along the whole length of it and can the wildlife to use it be properly protected form dogs, foxes, cats and cars etc. And where would such a linkages come from and lead into. Is it worth to construct expensive infrastructures for the animals that may be left in the area.

In one instance, $20m dollars were spent on underpasses in the Pines for the Southern Brown Bandicoot but there were no bandicoots left to use them.

During a recently held Biolink Forum at the RBGC the great enthusiasm and passion for these links has not changed. The SBBRG still insists to just only relay on providing corridors for bandicoots. Some of the proposed corridors are at least ten km in length and without fences to protect the animals from predators.They recommend to use “functional wildlife corridors between state nature reserves and to wildlife corridors in Frankston from the RBGC” but at the same time believe that fencing of the Pines is a lost cause and time could be better spent on other issues. Why then, create a 10 km long corridor from the RBGC to the Pines and to other similar distant places when there is no intention to re-introduce and properly protect bandicoots in the Pines and in those other reserves? When considering that we have dismally failed to protect bandicoots in at least 12 conservation reserves on the Pen. and in Frankston, it begs the question whether they can realistically be expected to just survive in narrow,long and unprotected corridors.

Fortunately, some people of the Natural Resources Conservation League of Victoria agree with me and recommend “Fencing of key nodes looks likely being one of the immediate priorities. This would include the Pines first and foremost”.

If this type of absolute protection for bandicoots is not accepted, then. the other currently recommended strategies of just corridors will create a much greater threat to bandicoots then that of dogs, foxes, cats, cars and developers put together!

As if it could not get worse. There are suggestions to introduce the Eastern Barred Bandicoot onto Churchill Island, French Island, Woodley School Reserve and even onto Quail Island, all being habitat that should be reserved and used for the SBB’s.

It looks like our flagship species, the SBB is now well and truly torpedoed and sunk and the governments at all levels do not seem to care.


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Urban sprawl threatens Southern Brown Bandicoots — Western Port Bay, Vic


Ecologist Hans Brunner:

Bandicoots, the problems and the answer.

MY CONCERN IS the survival of Southern Brown Bandicoots (SBB) east of Melbourne and especially within the biosphere region around Western Port Bay. This is the site where during the last twenty odd years 95% of them were lost. The reason for the loss of the SBBs was the combination of incompetent and unwillingness by the then governments of Department of Environment and Sustainability, and Parks Victoria, failure to properly protect them there.

(So the very government agencies we expect to uphold the protection of wildlife and habitats are actually failing!  Promoting urban sprawl now is endemic to our culture, our economy?  Editor)

And now, the new Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning (DELWP) plans to create a large new urban estate adjacent to the Royal Botanical Gardens Cranbourne (RBGC) called the Botanic Ridge & Devon Meadows. This area was previously covered with prime bandicoot habitat land — and now have to be somehow compensated for.


IMAGES: Used with permission from Reiner Richter.

(Strange how the names of some streets and housing estates take on names that represent exactly some of the natural features lost under concrete — “botanic” and “meadows”, editor.)

Since then. I have attended four workshops with DELWP, SBB experts, public servants and environment consultants, about 25 people per session.

I was extremely disappointed that DELWP still insists in the continued use of only narrow corridors as a compensation for the loss of all the SBB habitat. I have earlier explained to them in great detail why these narrow corridors will definitely not be suitable for SBBs. Unfortunately, there seems to be absolutely nothing that I could do to change their mind. They were also not prepared to apply an actual Population Viability Assessment (PVA) to the area. All they did was talk about the use of it, but did not apply it, in order to prove that SBBs could safely survive in these conditions for at least the next hundred years! To me, this looked like 90% of political overbearing and only 10% of environmental input. No way could a PVA pass a test here and neither can artificial and narrow corridors be used for SBBs.

I have therefore consistently insisted that SBBs can now only be properly secured within large reserves surrounded by a predator proof fence. There are several such reserves suitable for this purpose such as the Pines, the Langwarrin Reserve and the Briars. SBBs can then be safely protected from dogs, foxes, feral cats and from competition from rabbits. Why has so much gone wrong with DELWP? Is there not one person among them who understands and loves SBBs enough to give them the deservedly highest protection available?

I now urge DELWP to urgently carry out their obligation and to put those SBBs safely into some large reserves the same way they are protected in the RBGC. I will be extremely frustrated if this is not done. Only the highest possible protection for them can now do.

— Hans Brunner


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