By Luke Voogt
Rangers from Lara’s Serendip Sanctuary have helped save a bandicoot species decimated by foxes, cats and habitat destruction from the brink of extinction.
Conservation authorities this week announced the reclassification of the eastern barred bandicoot from extinct in the wild to endangered following a 30-year breeding program.
“It’s really exciting,” Serendip Sanctuary wildlife ranger Brandon Hallas said.
Mr Hallas in June joined rangers from across Victoria releasing another 20 bandicoots into the wild, including two born and bred at Serendip Sanctuary.
The male and female are now roaming free in the Grampians under the watchful eyes of two specially-trained Italian sheepdogs.
Eastern barred bandicoots were once common across the grassy plains of southwest Victoria but in 1989 only 150 remained.
A recovery team formed in 1988 to co-ordinate efforts to rescue the species from extinction.
The team established populations at four feral predator-free fenced reintroduction sites across Victoria and another two protected by Zoos Victoria’s guardian dogs, including the Grampians site.
Rangers have also transferred bandicoots to secure, fox-free habitats on Phillip, Churchill and French islands, where significant populations are thriving.
These sites combined are now home to about 1500 eastern barred bandicoots, prompting the recent reclassification.
Serendip Sanctuary has been involved in the program for a decade and in the past five years has bred about a dozen bandicoots for release into the wild, according to Mr Hallas.
“It’s a culmination of all the work the team at Serendip have done,” he said.
“The team here are awfully proud of themselves, as you can imagine.”
Programs like this were why the 26-year-old became a wildlife ranger, he said.
“It’s a very special program and we look forward to having a celebration at the end of it. Hopefully, the next time you see the eastern barred bandicoot, you’ll see it in the wild.”