Workshop brings top conservation minds to help save the KI dunnart

The Kangaroo Island dunnart is a tiny carnivorous marsupial that has rarely been seen in the last 20 years.

But that elusiveness is not enough to discourage a major push to conserve the endangered species.

A workshop on May 27 at the Aurora Ozone Hotel in Kingscote brought together top conservation scientists and land managers from KI and beyond to share knowledge and set out actions required to support the recovery of the rare species.

The workshop, part of wider project planning for the future of the Kangaroo Island dunnart, was supported by the Kangaroo Island Natural Resources Management Board, through funding from the Federal Government's National Landcare Program, and the Threatened Species Recovery Hub.

Welcoming all attendees on behalf of the Natural Resources Management Board, Jasper Taylor said that he was impressed with the strong community support for saving a species that few people had seen.

"The presentations given at the workshop were a real eye-opener for me and demonstrated the level of expertise we have to support the recovery of this species," Mr Taylor said.

"From threats such as feral cats and habitat destruction through to how fire can be both detrimental and beneficial to habitat for the dunnart, there were plenty of topics for lively discussion."

For two years the Threatened Species Recovery Hub of the National Environmental Science Program has been undertaking research on Kangaroo Island to help save the species, in collaboration with landholders and KI agencies and groups.

Dr Rosie Hohnen from Charles Darwin University presented the findings of the Hub's research about how best to detect and monitor the elusive species.

"This is a really hard species to find and the last extensive surveys for it occurred almost 20 years ago, so the first thing we did was set about trying to find the best survey method," Dr Hohnen said.

"We were able to establish that camera traps facing plastic drift fences are the best method to detect the Kangaroo Island dunnart.

"We detected the dunnart at five sites on western Kangaroo Island using this method, showing they are still persisting on the island.

"Other groups, notably KI Land for Wildlife, are now also using this method, so it is great to see the research findings already being applied."

The Threatened Species Recovery Hub also presented the findings of research investigating control methods for feral cats, which are likely to be one of the major threats to the tiny dunnart.

Kangaroo Island (KI) Land for Wildlife, a non-government organisation for private land conservation, presented their work with private landholders to survey for the species and reduce threats to it.

Heidi Groffen from KI Land for Wildlife said that supporting private land holders to better understand which threatened species live within their bushland, helped secure long-term protection for the KI dunnart and other species.

"Once landholders see a KI dunnart on a wildlife camera, the enthusiasm to protect the species from threats such as feral cats and phytophthora cinnamomi (Pc dieback) is greater," Ms Groffen said.

"KI Land for Wildlife will continue this work supported by the Kangaroo Island Natural Resources Management Board, through funding from the Australian Government's National Landcare Program.

"This funding will also support the KI Land for Wildlife program to develop a feasibility study for a feral cat-free refuge on private land to ensure the species persists in its core habitat."

Following the workshop, conservation advice will be developed to provide guidance on long-term management actions to assist with the recovery of the KI dunnart.

The Kangaroo Island dunnart is one of 20 priority mammals identified under the Federal Government's Threatened Species Strategy, while Kangaroo Island is one of five islands targeted for feral cat eradication.

You can learn more about this enigmatic species here:

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