Foundation for Australia's Most Endangered Species working to save the KI dunnart

The extremely rare Kangaroo Island Dunnart. Photo by Jody Gates.
The extremely rare Kangaroo Island Dunnart. Photo by Jody Gates.

One of the rarest species on earth and under grave threat of extinction, the Kangaroo Island Dunnart, is being given a good chance at survival as a rescue program strongly backed by Island landholders gets underway.

The Foundation for Australia's Most Endangered Species (FAME) is providing funds and applying expertise accumulated over the past 25 years to rescue the remaining estimated 300 dunnarts under grave threat on Kangaroo Island.

The Foundation will partner with the Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife, a non-profit entity which will be chiefly responsible for implementing the work with private landholders. Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife will support landholders across 50,000 hectares of private land for Dunnart preservation.

Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife's Heidi Groffen said that, FAME's support during the 2018 project confirmed 39 Kangaroo Island Dunnart records across four new sites within privately managed properties.

"This project will help us continue to support private landholders in managing bushland properties for the protection of the Kangaroo Island dunnart and other threatened species," Ms Groffen said.

Foundation CEO Tracy McNamara, said the Foundation had committed to raise $150,000 to help underwrite the costs of the second phase of the Dunnart program.

"Our donor base is highly committed and enthusiastic about the Foundation's involvement and I believe that we will raise the necessary funds," Mrs McNamara said.

One of the most pleasing aspects of the Kangaroo Island project was the wholehearted support of local landholders and the involvement of Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife, she said.

These supportive community groups understand the complexity and multi-faceted nature of the program.

Critical elements include:

  • Reducing feral cat numbers within Kangaroo Island Dunnart habitat by 80 per cent and maintain control activities.
  • Improving our knowledge of the Kangaroo Island Dunnart population by continual monitoring at five known Kangaroo Island Dunnart sites
  • Establish a protected (fenced) refuge for the Kangaroo Island Dunnart and other collateral beneficiaries that is free from feral cats and other threats.
  • Engaging and obtaining continued support and ownership of the ambitious program from local residents to help in monitoring and other long-term control activities.

The Kangaroo Island Dunnart is endemic to Kangaroo Island, South Australia. With approximately 300 individuals remaining, they are one of Australia's most endangered species.

These individual animals are under constant threat, particularly from feral cats which are indiscriminate killers.

Alarmingly, experts have advised the Foundation that there is a better than one-in-five chance of extinction of the species over the next couple of decades unless the feral predator threat is eliminated or largely eliminated.

"That would be a tragedy of enormous proportions - an outcome that Kangaroo Island residents have now determined should not be allowed," Mrs McNamara said.

The Foundation has created an opportunity for donors and potential donors to specify that their donations should go directly to support the Kangaroo Island Dunnart program.

"The amount sought - $150,000 - is significant but the level of support for this program has been very strong and we're confident of raising the money as we widen the appeal for funds," Mrs McNamara said.

KI Land for Wildlife: The not-for-profit organisation, Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife Association Incorporated, will implement this project.

Their vision is that by 2021, in partnership with private Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife landholders, they will manage 50,000 hectares of private lands for Kangaroo Island Dunnart conservation, with a longer-term vision to diminish the threats to the Kangaroo Island Dunnart.

This project follows an earlier successful collaboration between the Foundation and Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife in the 'Finding the Kangaroo Island Dunnart' project.

Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife works closely with the local community, Kangaroo Island Community Education and Natural Resources Kangaroo Island to increase knowledge and understanding of Kangaroo Island's endangered species and how best to protect them into the future.

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