Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Real Crash Bandicoot

Northern Brown Bandicoot; Photo by the Queensland Museum
Bandicoots had their fifteen minutes of worldwide fame in 1996, when Sony released a popular videogame on their Playstation platform called 'Crash Bandicoot'. To me, the protagonist looked more like a tail-less fox than our native marsupial, but I like to think it raised the profile of bandicoots to koala-like levels for a generation of youths around the world.

Last week, I caught up with the real thing when I carried out a quick mammal survey
in Burpengary. On one of the rare nights when it wasn't bucketing down, I went spotlighting in the riparian forest behind the Caboolture Region Environmental Education Centre on Rowley Road. There wasn't much to see on that particular night, but when my friend and I reached the steep and densely vegetated bank of Burpengary Creek, we heard a rustling coming from a nearby thicket. Closer inspection revealed a pair of Northern Brown Bandicoots (Isoodon macrourus). 

Some Brisbane residents will find traces of these animals in their gardens. Bandicoots are famous for frustrating proud lawn-owners thanks to the small conical pits they dig during the night. Only a foolish gardener would want to prevent this however, as the Bandicoots are actually digging up beetle larvae that would otherwise kill sections of the grass from underneath. Think of it as a free pest-control service!

Bandicoots are usually solitary creatures, but the pair at Burpengary stayed very close together, with the terrier-sized male following the smaller female. This is courtship behaviour, and it's one of the only times that Bandicoots are seen together. Once the female relents and mates with her persistent pursuer, she will give birth to a litter of joeys just twelve-and-a-half days later; this is the shortest gestation period of any mammal in the world.

In South-east Queensland, the Northern Brown Bandicoot is a common resident that can be found wherever patches of dense vegetation remain. This includes the inner suburbs of Brisbane - in November, I found their diggings on the scrubby fenceline of the Indooroopilly Golf Course. Along the coastal mountain ranges in places like Mount Nebo, spotlighting may reveal our only other Bandicoot in South-east Queensland, the Long-nosed Bandicoot (Perameles nasuta). I have yet to see this species for myself here, but became well acquainted with them during a North Queensland roadtrip in 2013.

6 comments:

  1. 12 1/2 days?! WOW!!! just WOW!!! cute little critter!

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    1. Yes, shocking, hey!? There must be a high mortality rate for them, as we don't seem to be over-run with Bandicoots!

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  2. Good grief... such a short gestation - I'm WOWing the same as T above!! That, plus the pest control service they provide make the Bandicoot pretty amazing little creatures.
    Beaut that you got to observe a pair in your spotlighting trip. A really interesting post Christian, thank you :D)

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    1. Thanks Susan, yes it was a pleasure! I think I'll be able to spot more of them now. That's the way it goes with animals, you see them once and then you know what signs and what places to look for from then onwards.

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  3. Thanks for the insight into bandicoot behavior - great to know these little guys are still surviving in some parts of the urban sprawl. We saw the long-nosed at O'Reilly's last year - one helped with the washing-up. And did you hear that bandicoots are making a comeback around Sydney? Not sure why. Cheers, Paula

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    1. Thanks Paula, yes the long-nosed is a friendly little campsite character! No I didn't know that about Sydney's bandicoots but that is great news. I think tiny patches of bush in our suburbs hold more valye than we realise. Apparently the last mainland Eastern Quoll was from Vaucluse, an uppity inner Eastern suburb of Sydney.

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