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"The Elusive Numbat" - October's SNAP of the month

Updated: 6 days ago

Since first stepping foot into Western Australia well over a year ago, I knew next to nothing about the elusive Numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus).....

Numbats, unlike most other Australian marsupials, are active throughout the day (diurnal). During the night they take shelter in logs, tree hollows and burrows, providing them with protection against predators such as foxes and feral cats. Unfortunately because of these predators, fires, and human influences (...no surprise there...!) such as habitat loss through widespread clearing for agriculture, these little guys are now ENDANGERED.

Scientific Name

Myrmecobius fasciatus

Conservation Status

Endangered

Body Length

20-27cm

Weight

400-700g

Class

Mammal

Gestation

14 Days

Number of Young

4

Location

South West Region of WA

Habitat

Eucalyptus Forest

At one time Numbats were present from Western Australia all the way across to the western parts of New South Wales. Today around 99% of their populations have been completely wiped out and now only very small pockets are left in the south west region of WA, namely, at Dryandra Woodland and Perup Nature Reserve. It is estimated that less than 1000 mature Numbats remain in the world today.


Numbats rely on large, mostly eucalyptus habitats that provide the perfect hollow logs for shelter. These landscapes also provide food...and a lot of it. These little marsupials are carnivorous and their diet is made up of almost entirely one thing...termites! Studies show that Numbats eat around 15,000-20,000 termites every single day and males will explore areas up to 50 hectares in search for this.

Termite mounds can be extremely strong and far too hard for a Numbat to break into. Instead they wait until the termites are much easier to access. Because of this their movements during the day replicate that of the termites. In summer months termites are more active during the morning before the soils get too hot, when they retreat deeper into the soil to avoid the hottest parts of the day. During winter the termites are not as active until late morning when the soils begin to warm up again. As well as being active at the same time as the termites,



Numbats have one more secret weapon up their sleeve....actually in their mouths....their Tongue! They have a 17cm long tongue that they use to scoop up termites below the surface.


Numbats have a polygnous mating pattern where one make with mate with multiple females. Breeding season runs from December through to January. They have a 14 day gestation period resulting in 4 young, all of which live attached to their mother's body for around 6 months before the mother removes them and they begin to live in the burrow/log. The mother continues to feed her offspring until around 10 months when the young are weaned off their mother's milk. After only 1 year the young head off to find their own territories and forage on their own.


Want to spot a Numbat in the wild for yourself?

As you know Dryandra Woodland and Perup Nature Reserve are the two remaining pockets for Numbats left in the wild. From my experience finding them in Perup is somewhat harder than in Dryandra. Dryandra has the largest remaining native vegetation in the western Wheatbelt. It's located 164KM south-east of Perth.


For a more detailed 'how to' on this go and check out this awesome guide by Lewis Burnett:


www.huntingforparadise.com/post/how-to-find-numbats


More info and how you can help!

www.wwf.org.au/what-we-do/species/numbat#gs.gjrb6g

https://perthzoo.wa.gov.au/animal/numbat

https://animalia.bio/numbat

www.numbat.org.au/

www.fame.org.au/projects/savingthelastnumbats