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Numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus) is an aboriginal name that has become the common name for the small striped marsupials that lived in south western Australia 200 years ago. They lived in hollows of mallee trees which covered 20% of Australia 200 years ago. When the fox and cat were introduced into Australia they destroyed the numbat and other grazing animals that kept the mallee undergrowth clear, protecting it from bush fire. When the animals disappeared, the bush fires came, destroying the numbats’ habitat.

Numbat sanctuaries

By 1980 there were only 200 numbats left in the world and in 1982 they were declared the world’s most endangered mammal. One of the reasons for this prediction was because numbats cannot be kept in captivity due to their diet of termites. They eat thousands of termites a day which is impossible to supply in a captive environment. The only way to save the numbats from extinction was to build protected areas for them, like the Yookamurra sanctuary in South Australia under the direction of Doctor John Wamsley. The sanctuary has a fox and cat proof fence and 3,000 acres (1215Ha) of ancient mallee trees with massive trunks filled with hollows, ideal for numbats. Initially 15 numbats were reintroduced five years ago and there are now hundreds of numbats living in the sanctuary which has grown to 9,000 acres (3644Ha). The numbats are monitored with radio tracking via a radio collar on each animal. They can be caught for weighing, checking their health and breeding, increasing the information known about numbats. The latest project with numbats is in western NSW at the Scotia sanctuary which will see numbats brought back to NSW within two years.

Further information

Yookamurra is one of several sanctuaries run by Earth Sanctuaries Limited. Earth Sanctuaries Limited is not government funded but funded by members who are share holders in the company. To invest in the company and help preserve numbats and other creatures call for a prospectus on (08) 8370 9422. You can help support the existing Earth Sanctuaries and new projects across Australia.