Brushtailed rabbit-rat
Brushtailed rabbit-rat

Triple threat for Top End’s native mammals

FIRE, feral cats and disease are causing an alarming decline in small native mammals in the Top End.

Animal expert Dr Andrea Reiss says the alarming decline is challenging efforts to increase their numbers.

The brushtail possum, northern brown bandicoot, northern quoll and brushtailed rabbit-rat are just some of the animals at risk.

Dr Reiss said the decline was the result of a complex mix of factors.

"Our examination of disease was only conducted over 18 months and the jury is still out, but the cause of the declines is likely to be a complex interplay of factors including changed fire regimes and introduced predators such as feral cats, as well as disease," the Murdoch University researcher said.

"Worryingly, the declines are happening even in protected habitats, such as national parks."

Dr Reiss's research involved examining and sampling almost 300 animals from Bathurst Island, Cobourg Peninsula, Kakadu National Park, Groote Eylandt and Darwin.

Dr Reiss's team found evidence of parasites, viruses and bacteria including several never before reported within those species in the Northern Territory.

"We believe some of those diseases could pose a further threat to these animals," she said.

"Populations are vulnerable to disease because they are small and isolated, may have poor genetic variability, and because the disease threat comes on top of others such as vegetation changes and introduced predators," she said.


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