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Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Rare marsupial caught on camera for first time in a decade

Rare footage has been captured of the vulnerable kowari, a carnivorous desert marsupial endemic to the arid regions of Queensland and South Australia.

The footage was filmed by Department of Environment and Science’s Senior Ecologist, John Augusteyn, on a recent trip to Astrebla Downs National Park as part of a threatened species monitoring program that included the iconic bilby, critically endangered plains wanderer and the kowari.

It is believed this is the first time the rare marsupial has been caught on camera in almost a decade in Queensland.

“We use thermal monitoring equipment, drones, fixed-wing aircraft and acoustic recorders to monitor the wildlife populations on the park,” Mr Augusteyn said.

“Kowaris are known for their ‘Pepe Le Pew’ style of running across the landscape and their great speed.

“Through the thermal imaging equipment, we observed a kowari running into its burrow, so we set up a video camera and waited patiently for this little guy to re-emerge out of it.

“Kowaris are curious, inquisitive little things, but can also be very difficult to find in the landscape and even harder to film in the wild.”

Kowaris are currently listed as vulnerable but conservationists are collaborating with their counterparts in South Australia to review their conservation status in light of declines associated with feral cat and wild dog predation.

“Sadly, despite numerous searches, kowaris have disappeared from long-term study sites on Diamantina National Park and have not been seen since 2012,” Mr Augusteyn said.

“Fortunately, the news is much brighter on the nearby Astrebla Downs National Park, where record numbers of both bilbies and kowaris were recently recorded.

“Park ranger have been working hard to reduce feral cat and wild dog numbers on the National Parks and have removed more than 3000 cats over the past ten years.

“The high numbers of bilbies and kowaris on Astrebla National Park is a strong testament to the value of the predator control efforts.

“It can be difficult work for staff, with freezing nights in winter and searing heat in summer, but it is always rewarding.”

DES staff have also taken to the skies to record bilby burrows across vast areas of south-west Queensland that includes both protected areas and neighbouring land used for grazing.

The surveys are a great example of ways in which government and grazing enterprises can work together for conservation.

“The aim of the survey work is to develop robust methods that can be used to monitor bilbies and kowaris across the landscape both now and into the future,” Mr Augusteyn said.

Please visit the DES Media centre for footage.

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