Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Numbats - A-Z Blog Challenge

This beautiful creature is the faunal emblem of Western Australia. Also known as a banded anteater, marsupial anteater or walpurti, it used to be widespread across much of southern Australia. Now, sadly, it's endangered and is only found naturally in a few scattered colonies in the south west of Western Australia although, thanks to captive breeding programmes like this one at Perth Zoo, they have been reintroduced to a few other sanctuary areas in the south west, South Australia and New South Wales. Along with habitat destruction, feral cats and foxes have also contributed to its current parlous state and to counter them there has been intensive baiting (with 1080, a poison derived from native vegetation which doesn't affect native animals but is effective against feral animals) and efforts made to protect the existing colonies within the sanctuaries. As to whether this will be enough to save the species - well, I guess, we will just have to wait and see.

Between 35 and 45 centimetres (15-18 inches) in length the numbat ranges in colour from a soft grey to dark red with 4-11 white stripes across its back. They also all have a distinctive black stripe that runs from the tip of the muzzle across the eyes to the base of the ears. Because termites are their only food - and one thing we have a lot of in Australia is termites - unlike many marsupials the numbat is diurnal. This is because it isn't strong enough to dismantle termite nests, although it can dig out the shallow subterranean tunnels, so it it feeds at times of the day when the termites leave the nest which are daylight.

And just because I think if one numbat isn't enough have a look at these adorable babies being hand raised as part of the captive breeding programme at Perth Zoo. And then there are these little sweethearts at play.

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