The Numbat: Myrmecobius fasciatus
For my first ‘Species spotlight’ I’ve chosen the Numbat, which is also the animal on RUN Wildlife’s top page!
A General introduction
Numbats are marsupials that are native to Western Australia. They are also a mammal emblem for Western Australia. Their diet consists exclusively of termites, and while most marsupials have a nocturnal lifestyle, the numbat is known to be one of the rare few which are diurnal. Their active hours have been observed to follow patterns of termite activity, as they eat when termites are active, rather than breaking into termite mounds.
Some Interesting Phylogeny
They are listed in the order of Dasyuromorphia (an order containing many marsupial carnivores) and are the only living member of the family Myrmecobiidae.
The numbat is currently classified as being endangered and is threatened by predation from introduced predators, habitat loss caused by land clearing and fire, and some diseases such as toxoplasmosis. Although the numbat does have some natural predators, including multiple birds of prey and some snakes, introduced predators are more of a problem for the species. Red foxes are thought to perhaps have caused the most damage to the species, as it was after the deliberate release of red foxes by European settlers in Australia that their distribution shrunk and their numbers dwindled. Feral cats are also thought to cause significant damage to numbat numbers through predation.
Western Shield, a program within the Department of Parks and Wildlife (Australia) is particularly concerned conserving native wildlife and controlling invasive species in Australia, through management including baiting and education of the public.
There is a breeding program for numbats at Perth Zoo which is ongoing, and since 1993 they have released around 200 zoo-born numbats into the wild.
There is also a community group called Project Numbat that raises awareness and promotes the conservation of numbats, as well as fundraising for and assisting with numbat recovery.
Below there are links for some of the organisations and groups mentioned if you would like to find out more about numbat conservation efforts:
Perth Zoo’s Numbat Breeding Program: http://perthzoo.wa.gov.au/conservation/native-species-breeding-programs/numbat/
Project Numbat: www.numbat.org.au/
Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2014, “Approved conservation advice for Myrmecobius fasciatus (numbat)” Available online at: < http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/pubs/294-conservation-advice.pdf >
Department of the Environment 2016, “Myrmecobius fasciatus in Species Profile and Threats Database”, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available online at: http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=294
Cooper, C.E. 2011, “Myrmecobius fasciatus (Dasyuromorphia: Myrmecobiidae)”. Mammalian Species, Vol. 43(879-883), pp. 129-140. Available online at: < http://mspecies.oxfordjournals.org/content/mspecies/43/881/129>