In December 2020, the New South Wales (Australia) Environmental Trust announced that they were awarding a $20.3 million grant to NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service to help halt species decline. The grant funded the creation of four new feral predator-free areas, more than tripling the size of such predator-free areas on NSW national parkland, and the reintroduction of threatened and declining species to three such previously-established areas. When the grant was announced in 2020, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment website explained:
Australia has the worst mammal extinction record in the world. In New South Wales, 14 bird species and 26 mammals have become extinct in the past 250 years.
Feral cats and foxes are the key drivers of the decline in most mammals, as well as bird, reptile and amphibian species. Feral cats alone kill more than 1.5 billion native animals each year. In New South Wales, cats – more than any other feral animal – are thought to impact 117 threatened species.
The plan will bring the total of fox-and-cat-free areas in NSW national parks to almost 65,000 hectares, combined with the Reintroduction of locally extinct mammals project's 3 existing fenced feral-free areas on national park estate managed in partnership with Australian Wildlife Conservancy and UNSW Sydney/Wild Deserts.
More than 50 threatened species are expected to benefit, including 28 locally extinct species and more than 30 threatened species currently surviving in national parks.
It's now more than a year and a half later, and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service announced this week on its Facebook page that at least 10 species are now thriving in the 3 previously established predator-free areas where they were reintroduced. They explain:
Once locally extinct native animals like the bilby, Shark Bay bandicoot, numbat, crest-tailed mulgara and brush-tailed bettong are breeding and flourishing in the 3 feral predator-free areas established so far.
I'm so happy these creatures are doing so well and that the project is turning out to be a success! The NSW Facebook post also includes some amazing photos of these creatures, taken by wildlife photographers T Hunt/Wild Deserts, W Lawler, and B Leue/AWC. So if you've never seen a bandicoot or a numbat, or don't know a bilby from a bettong, go check them out! Which adorable once-endangered-but-now-thriving Australian creature is your favorite? They are all ridiculously cute, and it's hard to choose just one, but I'm gonna have to go with the brush-tailed bettong as my favorite—it looks like what would happen if you crossed a rat with the tiniest kangaroo you can imagine. That's exactly the kind of animal I find endearing. I mean, what's not to love?