5 June 2024


After five nights of trapping, the only small native species detected on lungtalanana in Bass Strait were two frogs and a lizard.

Ecologists from the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia were working with Pakana Rangers late last year to establish long-term ecological monitoring sites on lungtalanana as part of a bid to restore healthy country to the island.

Part of that work involved conducting a trapping survey to establish if any small native mammals survive on the Aboriginal-owned island.

The rangers selected trapping locations based on their knowledge of lungtalanana. If any small native mammals were clinging on they might be in these habitat patches.

But the only native species detected were an eastern banjo frog, a common eastern froglet and a mountain heath dragon.

L to R: an eastern banjo frog, a common eastern froglet, and a mountain heath dragon – the only native species discovered in 5 nights of trapping © WWF-Australia / Kita Ashman / Vanessa Barnett

“While this was not an extensive survey, it’s hardly surprising there were slim pickings from the trapping. The loss of cultural burning and devastating wild fires have altered the landscape. Introduced cats have likely wiped out all the small native mammals,” said Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre spokesperson Andry Sculthorpe.

A project to return ecologically and culturally important species is being led by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre and the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia in collaboration with The University of Tasmania.

The only plentiful native mammal remaining on the island is the red-bellied pademelon, while tracks beside lakes indicate the rakali (native water rat) is still present.

“Before European colonisation it was a much different story. Native animals thrived on lungtalanana including Bass Strait Island wombats, Bennett's wallabies, long-nosed potoroos, white-footed dunnarts and swamp antechinus,” said Patrick Giumelli , Threatened Species Manager, WWF-Australia.

To help restore lungtalanana, Pakana rangers have resumed cultural burning and are learning the relationships with fire in the lungtalanana landscape and how the country responds.

Repatriating native species is an incredibly important future step.

“lungtalanana has been a special place for our people for thousands of generations. Returning missing species can restore balance and help Country to heal, at the moment it’s still not healthy,” said Mr Sculthorpe.

Mr Giumelli said the rangers now have the skills to do more survey trapping to establish a baseline before species are repatriated. Cameras may also be set up to passively monitor the island’s wildlife.

Pakana sea country ranger Fiona Maher (left) & WWF’s Dr Kita Ashman prepare pipes for pit fall traps © WWF-Australia / Kita Ashman

One species that could possibly be returned before introduced predators are successfully managed is the Bass Strait Island wombat, a sub species now found only on Flinders Island and Maria Island (where they were introduced).

“They’re quite resilient animals. Their digging would improve soil conditions and their burrows could provide a refuge for other species during fires. Returning species is crucial to the goal of Regenerating Nature by 2030,” Mr Giumelli said.

To learn more about WWF-Australia supported Indigenous conservation on Country go to: https://wwf.org.au/caringoncountry/