Species profile

Numbat

Numbat

Range and abundance

The Numbat once inhabited southern and central Australia, extending from south-west Western Australia across to northern South Australia and into western New South Wales. Its range and abundance declined enormously following European settlement of Australia and today only two naturally occurring populations remain—both in south-west Western Australia (Dryandra Woodland and Perup Nature Reserve). In recent decades a captive breeding and translocation program has re-established populations at several sites including Yookamurra Sanctuary in South Australia and Scotia Sanctuary in New South Wales. Total remaining population size is estimated at less than 1,000 individuals.

Description

Numbats are a small to medium-sized marsupial with an unmistakable appearance; distinguished from any other species by the unique combination of a ‘bottlebrush’ tail, bold white strips on the hindquarters, a black line running across the eyes and a long snout. Adults weight 500–700 g and measure approximately 270 mm (head–body) with a 200 mm tail. 

Ecology 

The numbat is unusual among Australian mammals in that it is exclusively diurnal. It has a specialised diet of termites but it is not powerful enough to extract the prey from their mounds so instead must feed on termites when they are active in shallow subsurface soil galleries during the day. The species uses a variety of shelter at night including hollow logs, tree hollows and burrows, and these are also used to avid predators during the day. Female Numbats produce one litter (max. of four) per year during summer.  

Threats

The main threats to Numbats are predation by the introduced Red Fox and Cat. This threat is likely heightened by other factors including a reduction in habitat caused by the collection of firewood and clearing for agriculture. Altered fire regimes resulting in extensive and intense wildfires may also reduce ground cover and increase vulnerability to exotic predators. 


 

What is AWC doing?

AWC protects almost 30% of the remaining Numbat population and the only Numbat populations which are not in decline. AWC protects two large, self-sustaining populations of Numbats at Yookamurra in the Murraylands of South Australia and Scotia in western New South Wales. These populations exist within large areas (1,100 & 8,000 ha, respectively) protected from foxes and cats by predator-exclusion fences. AWC will reintroduce Numbats to the 7,800 hectare feral predator-free area at Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary. - this project t is expected to increase the global numbat population by more than 20%. AWC’s numbat populations have also facilitated much needed research to help us better understand the ecology of this iconic species. 

Did you know:

The name ‘Numbat’ is derived from Australian Aboriginal terms including noobat, nombat, nyoombot, and nambart. Early European names for the species included banded anteater, marsupial anteater and white-banded bandicoot.