WWF-Australia's field staff recently collected some very useful footage using infra-red camera trap technology in the agricultural zone of Southwest Australia, also known as the wheatbelt of Western Australia.
Of particular interest has been some very rare footage of a dunnart in its natural environment. It is thought to be the Little Long-tailed Dunnart (Sminthopsis dolichura), very similar to Gilbert’s Dunnart (Sminthopsis gilberti) which is also known to be in the area.
While notoriously difficult to identify – even when held in the hand – the scrubby understory habitat in which this individual was recorded provides additional identification clues. The preferred habitat of the Little Long-tailed Dunnart is low open shrubland or low woodland, the same vegetation type found at this site.
Korrelocking bushland, where this footage was captured, is an 'island' of eucalypt woodland surrounded by a ‘sea’ of wheat cropping paddocks, and has been so for several decades.
Night-time footage of the European red fox (Vulpes vulpes), a major predator and threat to the little dunnart, has also been captured in the same location. In the day-time video footage of the feral fox, the agitated calls of the little blue breasted fairy-wrens can be heard as they angrily respond to the predator in their territory. These calls also serve to alert other blue breasted fairy-wrens of the fox’s presence.
Using the information to work with farmers
WWF's biodiversity conservation projects in the Wheatbelt region of Southwest Australia are increasingly using data like this to inform our best practice management advice to private landholders. Increasingly the people that have farmed these ancient lands for generations, are being recognised as future conservation management custodians who need to be assisted and supported in protecting this important biodiversity.
Knowing how the little long-tailed dunnart uses this fragile remnant is important information for increasing the chance of survival for both the habitat and the species.
WWF’s work in Southwest Australia
WWF is working in some of the worlds’ most contested landscapes for species conservation. Southwest Australia’s endemic fauna have developed specialised relationships with the complex of vegetation communities they depend upon and these biodiversity treasure troves are less widely known about.
Little Long-tailed Dunnart (Sminthopsis dolichura).
The image of this feral fox was captured from the same camera trap location as the little long-tailed dunnart footage. This clearly shows how vulnerable dunnarts are to feral predators.
Southwest Australia Ecoregion
The Southwest Australia Ecoregion is one of 34 biodiversity hotspots on the planet. It’s a hotspot not just because of the incredible and unique diversity of plants and animals but also because what remains of the region is so threatened.