Burns put out aluminium box traps and caught one broad-toothed rat, which she weighed and measured and then put back in its grassy tunnel. The droppings were signs of more.
“It’s the best news. The Prom is one of the places that we’d written off over the years and to find them hanging on there is really great.”
Reduction of deer numbers has already prompted a massive increase in tussocky grasses, she says.
Broad-toothed rats live across a number of different habitats, from coastal sites in the Otways up to the NSW alps, where their tunnels through native grasses keep them warm in the snow.
In Australia, there are about 70 native rat species, including some that are yet to be named by scientists. There have been 15 species extinctions since colonisation.
Parks Victoria staff have increased pest and weed control five-fold at the Prom, and hope to rediscover or reintroduce other animals that haven’t been spotted for a long time, such as the eastern pygmy possum and the white-footed dunnart.
There have been some recent sightings of very rare ground parrots, while the red-necked pademelon – which has not been seen at the Prom for 100 years – could be reintroduced.
“This will be our opera house – a climate refuge sailing above the cool waters of Bass Strait.”
Dr Mark Norman
Rangers plan to use new technology, like remote trail cameras and acoustic recordings, to ascertain which species might be present, as well as testing for environmental DNA in streams to find out what has been swimming (or pooing) in the water.
The 10-kilometre boundary fence that will cordon off the Prom from the mainland is currently being designed and will be built over the next two years. It needs to take account of a First Nations cultural legacy that is tens of thousands of years old, as well as old and pristine banksia tree ecosystems, Norman says.
“It’s going well. It’s a huge legacy conservation initiative,” he says. “We didn’t build the Sydney Opera House overnight, but this will be our opera house – a climate refuge sailing above the cool waters of Bass Strait.”
Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the discovery of the broad-toothed rat was a testament to the state’s record investment in biodiversity.
“We’re creating the largest, best-protected sanctuary in the country,” D’Ambrosio said.
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