Australia’s bandicoot brought back from brink of extinction, officials say

The small furry rabbit-sized marsupial native to Australia, the Eastern Barred Bandicoot that once roamed grassy plains have been brought back from the brink of extinction, officials say.

Numbers of the marsupial plummeted because of non-native foxes, habitat destruction and feral cats.

Now, after 30 years of conservation efforts, the number has jumped from just 150 animals to an estimated 1,500.

It is the first time Australia has changed the status of an animal from “extinct in the wild” to “endangered”.

When recorded population levels of the bandicoots plunged in the years leading up to the late 1980s, conservation teams in the state of Victoria invested millions of dollars setting up captive breeding programmes.

They created predator-free sites – some of which were protected by trained dogs – and moved some of the animals to fox-free islands.

Announcing the change in conservation status of the bandicoot on Wednesday, Victoria’s Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said she was “excited” about the project’s success, adding: “It is an incredible first for Australia.”

A threatened species biologist at Zoos Victoria in Melbourne, Amy Coetsee, said the news offered “hope that with persistence, determination and the support of government, volunteers and communities, we can win the fight against extinction”, AFP reported.

Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate of any country in the world, according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Australia.