NEW PROJECT TO HELP ENDANGERED BETTONGS

14 DECEMBER 2020

The Wet Tropics’ endangered northern bettong will be better protected through a new project, announced this week.

With an estimated 1000 northern bettongs remaining, Far Northerners are banding together to help the elusive marsupial which is only found in the Mareeba area and is known for its love of native truffles.

The $170,000 project, funded by the Australian Government, aims to improve habitat for northern bettongs outside national park land.

Northern Bettong Project coordinator Chelsy Maloney from Terrain NRM said activities would include cool burns by traditional owners in northern bettong habitat and work with landholders on land management practices in potential bettong areas.

Terrain NRM will also be working with the Northern Bettong Recovery Team including James Cook University researchers, Queensland Parks and Wildlife officers, the World Wildlife Fund, Bush Heritage and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy.

Recovery Team Chair Sandra Abell said the project “filled a gap” in the recovery of this species.

“The focus has largely been on protected areas like in national parks,’’ Dr Abell said. “Getting landowners involved will be a huge step towards potentially increasing bettong habitat.”

She said the northern bettong population had dramatically declined over the past 20 to 30 years.
The only known populations now were in the Lamb Range and Mt Spurgeon areas.

“Their habitat is very restricted – in some places it is only 6km wide,’’ she said. “Bettongs need cockatoo grass, especially in the dry season, and activities like cool burns help to stop woodlands from thickening and maintain grassy understoreys.”

The new project is supported by Terrain NRM through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

FUN FACTS ABOUT NORTHERN BETTONGS

They mainly feed on truffles, which grow underground, connected to the roots of large trees.

They rest through the day on nests made of grass, leaves and bark, which they carry to the nest site in their tail.

They help the forest by spreading the spores of truffles around with their droppings.

They make spit balls out of undigested grass and these help researchers to track their movements.

They live in open eucalypt forest with a grassy understorey.

For more information about the new Northern Bettongs Project, contact Terrain Chelsy Maloney on 0402 421 446.

Northern bettong image: Stephanie Todd

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