Monday, 28 November 2016

Perth zoo to release numbats into predator-free wild

Release of captive-bred marsupials into 7,800ha Mt Gibson wildlife sanctuary part of ongoing attempt to save critically endangered species in Western Australia

Calla Wahlquist
Thursday 24 November 2016 07.30 GMT

Numbat.jpgFourteen numbats will be released into a predator-free wildlife sanctuary 350km north of Perth in an ongoing attempt to save the critically endangered species.

It is the first release of captive-bred numbats into the 7,800ha Mt Gibson sanctuary, which has been declared free of feral cats and foxes following an extensive baiting program.

Staff at Perth zoo have attached radio collars to 19 juvenile numbats ahead of the planned release next week.

The remaining five will be released to Dryandra woodland, an area 170km south of Perth that houses the largest wild population of numbats in Australia.

It brings the number of numbats released to 220 since the captive breeding program began in 1992.

Senior zookeeper in the native animal section, Dani Jose, said the teenaged numbats had to move out to make room for the next batch, which will be born in January.

They have been fattened on termites and extensively weighed and examined ahead of the release. 

Apart from having their collars fitted and spending some time upside-down being measured by a caliper, the numbats have been largely left alone to allow their wild instincts to develop.
It makes the process of preparing them for release relatively easy, Jose said.

“If we were to handle them too much they would become very focused on us and perhaps not as afraid of predators,” she said. 

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