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Kangaroo Island conservationists overjoyed after endangered dunnart spotted on burnt land

Alle McMahon, June 17, 2020 6:45PM The Advertiser

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Kangaroo Island dunnarts are critically endangered marsupials that only live on Kangaroo Island, South Australia. media_cameraKangaroo Island dunnarts are critically endangered marsupials that only live on Kangaroo Island, South Australia.

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A tiny, critically* endangered marsupial has amazed conservationists* on Kangaroo Island, after being spotted scampering* in bushland destroyed in this year’s bushfires.

More than 90 per cent of the Kangaroo Island dunnart’s habitat was burned in the blaze that swept across the South Australian island in January.

Since then, the Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife (KILfW) group has been working with local landowners to track the mouse-like animal, with fears just 50 could remain in the wild.

Sensor cameras detected a small number of dunnarts living on a patch of unburnt land earlier this year.

But the animal has now been spotted in an area that was left with no green vegetation following the fires, raising hopes they could still be saved from extinction.

Local Peter Hammond, whose property is being used to monitor the animals, described the find as the “most exciting thing to happen here this year”.

“How did the dunnart survive the devastation of our property and the entire surrounding district?” he said on Facebook. “What a tale of survival!”

Supplied Editorial A Kangaroo Island dunnart using a shelter tunnel after the bushfires.  Picture: Facebook/Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife media_cameraA Kangaroo Island dunnart using a shelter tunnel after the bushfires. Picture: Facebook/Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife
Supplied Editorial A Kangaroo Island dunnart. Picture: Facebook/Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife media_cameraA Kangaroo Island dunnart. Picture: Facebook/Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife

Pat Hodgens, an ecologist* with the KILfW group, said he was amazed to see the animal back where they were known to live before the fires.

“Amazing they escaped the fire itself then found enough food and then evaded predators,” he said on Twitter.

But Mr Hodgens cautioned* that dunnart numbers were still low at other survey sites.

“It is important to note that while this is fantastic news, we have many survey sites that are not detecting KI dunnarts,” he said.

“We also don’t yet have a good handle* on the number of individuals in remnant* patches, therefore all detections are significant”.

Kangaroo Island media_cameraPat Hodgens from Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife, in a Dunnart recovery area at Western River, Kangaroo Island, South Australia, in February 2020. Picture: Matt Turner

The Kangaroo Island dunnart is only found on the island and is also threatened by feral cats.

Over the past couple of months, volunteers have been building shelter tunnels to protect the animal and other small threatened species from predators as they move between areas.

“We will continue to survey for this critically endangered dunnart across west end privately owned properties and help landholders in important threat reduction activities to support recovery,” the KILfW group said.

GLOSSARY

  • critically: extremely
  • conservationists: people who work to conserve or save something
  • scampering: run with quick light steps
  • ecologist: scientists who studies living systems of plants and animals
  • cautioned: warned
  • handle: grasp, clear understanding
  • remnant: what’s left

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. What disaster destroyed dunnart habitat?
  2. What is another threat to the species’ survival?
  3. What type of scientist is Pat Hodgens?
  4. What state is Kangaroo Island a part of?
  5. Is this dunnart found anywhere except Kangaroo Island?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Design a Shelter
Locals on Kangaroo Island are building shelter tunnels to help the dunnarts and other small animals. Design a shelter tunnel that you could build for these creatures. Don’t forget to label all the features of the tunnel to help explain your design choices.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Design and Technologies, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Imagine you could interview some of the surviving dunnarts for Kids News and you are writing a story about how they survived. Write four questions you could ask them and then write the answers you think they would give you. Use lots of details so that your readers understand their amazing story.

Time: allow at least 30 minutes to complete this activity .
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Critical and Creative Thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
Verb adventures
With a partner see if you can identify all the doing words/verbs in this text. Highlight them in yellow and then make a list of them all down your page. Now see if you and your partner can come up with a synonym for the chosen verb. Make sure it still makes sense in the context it was taken from.

Try to replace some of the original verbs with your synonyms and discuss if any are better and why.

HAVE YOUR SAY: What endangered species would you like to find?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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