It might be small but the mulgara is mighty.
The tiny carnivorous* marsupial*, which is related to the Tasmanian devil, was declared extinct* in NSW more than a century ago.
But thanks to local scientists, the mysterious crest-tailed mulgara has been reintroduced to the state and is making Sturt National Park its new home.
The team behind the initiative, which is led by the University of NSW’s Wild Deserts project, is hoping to establish a self-sustaining* population in the state’s northwest, away from cats, rabbits and foxes.
Two exclosures* spanning across 2000ha each have been established at the park, with 19 mulgaras recently rehomed in the southern exclosure.
While tiny, shy animals, mulgaras are described as “ferocious predators” and share similarities with their Tasmanian devil cousins.
They feast on reptiles, insects and other small mammals.
Wild Deserts project leader professor Richard Kingsford said the population of crest-tailed mulgara was restricted to a relatively small area, mainly within the Strzelecki and Simpson deserts in South Australia.
He said the species was once widely distributed across sandy desert environments in inland Australia, but introduced pests, including rabbits, cats and foxes, had contributed to their decline.
In 2017, scientists made the shock discovery of a solitary* mulgara living within the Wild Deserts site. Before this, the animal was presumed* extinct in NSW for more than 100 years.
“They are still listed as extinct in NSW under the Biodiversity Conservation Act,” Prof Kingsford said.
Scientists decided to reintroduce the species after they had no luck finding evidence of a population in the area.
Recent rainfall has helped boost vegetation in the park, meaning there are now more small mammals and insects for the mulgara to prey on.
“The rain has been fabulous, really kickstarting the ecosystem after prolonged* drought and creating ideal conditions for these reintroductions,” said Dr Reece Pedler, co-ordinator of the Wild Deserts project.
“We currently know little about crest-tailed mulgara biology and breeding in the wild, so the project will contribute to both species knowledge and recovery.”
The mulgara release is the first of seven mammal species to be reintroduced to the Wild Deserts site as part of the NSW Government’s wider Saving our Species program.
Future species releases will include the greater bilby, burrowing bettong, western quoll and western barred bandicoot.
- carnivorous: meat-eating
- marsupial: a type of mammal which usually has a pouch
- extinct: no longer living
- self-sustaining: able to live without help
- exclosures: an area protected from unwanted animals and pests
- solitary: on its own, single
- presumed: thought to be
- prolonged: longer than usual
- Mulgaras are a cousin to which other animal?
- How many mulgaras have been rehomed in the Sturt National Park?
- What animals does the exclosure keep out?
- What shock discovery did scientists make in 2017?
- What do mulgaras eat?
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1. Mulgara Trivia
Challenge a friend to a round of “Mulgara Trivia”. After reading the article you should each write down five trivia questions that are based on information in the story. Take turns to ask each other the trivia questions you have written. You have 20 seconds to answer each question and can score 3 points by answering correctly without referring back to the story, 1 point for answering correctly after referring back to the story and 0 points for answering incorrectly or giving no answer. The player with the highest score at the end wins.
Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science
Re-read the first sentence of the news story. Write one paragraph to explain what you think the author of the story meant by that statement.
Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English
Stretch your sentence
Find a ‘who’ in the story — a person or animal. Write it down.
Add three adjectives to describe them better.
Now add a verb to your list. What are they doing?
Add an adverb about how they are doing the action.
Using all the words listed, create one descriptive sentence.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Which endangered animal would you like to protect?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.