Australia is a world leader in species extinction and declines, largely due to invasive species.
Extinct: Desert bandicoot
The desert bandicoot is one of 5 extinct mammals whose bones have been retrieved from 2 caverns at Uluru (Ayers Rock) where owls and dingoes once fed on them as prey.
The scientist who knew this mammal best was Hedley Finlayson, who, in 1961, after multiple desert expeditions, recalled that it had been fairly plentiful in the early 1930s in and around the Great Victoria Desert in South Australia, ‘but is now absent or rare in this fox infested quarter’. He believed it still survived further north.
When Aboriginal elders in outback Australia were asked in the early 1980s about rare and missing mammals, many recalled this species as living across a vast area. They said it disappeared from various regions 15 to 40 years prior. The most recent recollections came from Pintupi people who spoke of eating it 15–20 years before in an area near Lake Mackay in the Great Sandy Desert. That could mean the species survived until the 1970s.
Foxes and cats are blamed for the desert bandicoot’s extinction. The large fires that sometimes followed the end of Aboriginal burning may also have contributed to its plight by reducing food and shelter from predators
The desert bandicoot lived on sandplains and dunes with spinifex, and on tussock grass flats, and sheltered in grass-lined nests in scrapes hidden under litter, grass or a shrub.
Photo: David Staples (© Museums Victoria)
Australia has lost about 100 native plants and animals to extinction since colonisation, most of which were mainly due to invasive species. An estimated 27 of those extinctions occurred since the 1960s.
Learn more about some of Australia’s lost animals: