There are about 21 species of bandicoots, the "Long Nosed" is one of 11 main species of Bandicoots:
- Desert Bandicoot
- Eastern Barred Bandicoot
- Golden Bandicoot
- Northern Brown Bandicoot
- Pig Footed Bandicoot
- Rufous Spiny Bandicoot
- Southern Brown Bandicoot
- Western Barred Bandicoot
- Rabbit Bandicoot
- Long Nosed Bandicoot.
Of the eleven Australian species, three are extinct, and four or five other species have had considerable reductions in numbers and range. The Eastern Barred Bandicoot is almost extinct in mainland Australia and still lives in large numbers around the Oxerford area of Tasmania.
The bandicoot has two features which place it apart from other Marsupials (mammals that carry their young in pouches):
- Having many incisor teeth, as do all insect and flesh eating marsupials.
- Their second and third toes are grown together (like the kangaroo).
The Long Nosed Bandicoots use their long noses with their strong forepaws in finding and eating their food. Whilst digging, the Long-Nosed Bandicoot moves about sniffing the ground and a shrill, grunt-like sound often indicates the presence of food. The Bandicoot uses its front legs for digging conical holes in the ground into which it pushes its long, sensitive nose to efficiently sniff out its food.
They have shorter, but strong, forelimbs for digging and longer back legs used in their bounding, rabbit-like gait. Their feet are syndactylous with a much-reduced first digit. Their hind legs are kangaroo-like and very powerful with the second and third toes fused to form a claw for grooming. The bandicoots have developed elongated hind feet rather like kangaroos and wallabies and have rat like tails.
COLOUR AND COAT
Its colour is mainly greyish brown on their back, whilst their underside creamy white as is parts of their feet. Forefeet and the upper surface of the hind feet are also creamy white. Long Nosed Bandicoots have harsh, almost spiny fur. They come with built-in waterproofing – fur that is flat, rather than rounded, to deflect moisture. Their fur comes out easily in an attackers mouth.
They have a reverse pouch for the protection of their young whilst digging.
Head and body length is 200-425 mm and tail length is 75 to about 170 mm.
850 gram to 1.1 kg (approx)
The Long Nosed Bandicoot have the shortest gestation period of any mammal giving birth to two to three young, 12 and a half days after mating. Bandicoots can have up to three litters a year. The female mates at night and the young are born in the daytime in the security of their nest. As with all marsupials, their young are very small and undeveloped, furless and blind, and with hind limbs only partially formed, these tiny newborns have well developed forelimbs with claws that enable them to make their way into the pouch
There the small bandicoot attaches to one of the eight teats which then swells, ensuring that the young stay there. The trade-off of the short pregnancy is the lengthy period of lactation during which the young remain in the pouch and the composition of the milk produced by the mother changes depending on the developmental stage of the young. The young bandicoots suckle for eight weeks and then a couple of weeks later become independent.
These young bandicoots are only about one centimetre long. One of the most interesting aspects is that the pouch of the mature female (4 months +) bandicoot opens backwards for protection for their young when the mother digs holes with their shorter front legs in search of food otherwise the babies would be smothered with soil. There are usually three or four young.
Breeding can take place throughout the year, however winter is not a preferable time. In ideal weather and habitat (e.g. supply of food) the female can have babies every seven weeks. When females are about four months old they start breeding, and this will be a continuous process from then on, to the end of their days. They are still suckling their young in the pouch while the next litter grows in the womb. Since females have eight teats, the number of young seems rather low, but actually there is an advantage, considering the short interval between births. A new litter is born at the same time that the previous one is weaned. The teats used by the previous litter have greatly expanded and are too large for the newborn to grasp. Because usually at least four other teats have not been used, however, the newborn are assured nourishment. In Long-nosed Bandicoots the young are carried in the pouch 50-54 days, then remain briefly in the nest, and begin to forage with the female when they are 62-63 days old. In this species sexual maturity comes at 4 months for females and 5 months for males.
PREDATORS and HAZARDS
Long Nosed Bandicoots are very vulnerable to dog and cat attacks, being hunted by foxes and habitat destruction.
The Queensland Department of Primary Industry Scientists based in Brisbane have released preliminary surveys that demonstrated that multiple Long Nosed Bandicoot deaths were due to its known "long nose capability" for digging down and eating Camphor Laurel roots. The Camphor Laurel is now officially listed as a "suspicious species" .
Studies of feral cats have also indicated that the Long Nosed Bandicoots (Perameles nasuta) and Common Ringtail Possums (Pseudocheirus peregrinus) together comprise over 50 per cent of the diet of feral cats during spring and autumn with introduced Black Rats (Rattus rattus) , rabbits, songbirds, skinks and invertebrates comprising the remainder. At least 90 per cent of domestic cats do kill even if well fed and wearing bells. It has been said that the most well fed, placid and loved domestic cat turns into a feral cat as soon as it's out the front door.
On World Environment Day in 1998, the Queensland Conservation Council released a report which revealed the devastating impact of land clearing on animals. In Queensland alone for example, 68,000 long nosed bandicoots, 22,400 sugar gliders, 17,000 brushtail possums and 7,500 greater gliders are killed every year by land clearing, and millions more plants and animals die.
THE FUTURE FOR LONG-NOSED BANDICOOTS
With more people becoming trained as Wildlife Carers and involved in the care and release of healthy wildlife, as well as the general population becoming better educated in relation to wildlife, the future for all Australian wildlife is richly enhanced. There are many benefits – and one of those is participating in the successful care, rehabilitation and release of wildlife back into their environment. There are some situations however where it is more humane to euthanase an animal or bird, which definitely would not be able to survive by themselves when released. Under the Code of Practice of the Queensland Conservation Act wildlife can only be euthanased by a qualified person. It is important for a Wildlife Carer to have a good working relationship with the local Vet, the local Wildlife Ranger of the Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service and/or have other means of support from experienced Carers and Wildlife Groups.
Presumed Extinct : An animal or plant species that has not been found in the wild during the past 50 years, despite thorough searching.
Endangered : An animal or plant species that is in danger of extinction and will probably not survive if the threats to it continue.
Vulnerable : An animal or plant species that will probably become endangered if the threats to it continue.
ARNOTT, Marcia. Wildlife Carer who has Long Nosed Bandicoot caring experience.
BOWDEN, J. Living with Environment in the Pines Rivers Shire, Fergies, Brisbane, 1999.
CLYNE, D. Australian Rainforests, Pg.27, Reed New Holland, 1989.
CRONIN, L. Koala Australia's Endearing Marsupial, Reed Books, NSW, 1987.
DICKSON, C, , "Raiders of the Last Ark: Cats on Island Australia", The Australian Museum ANH Magazine Winter 1993, Pg 44-52.
STRAHAN, R. The Australian Museum Complete Book of Australian Mammals. Angus and Robertson, 1983.
WHITE, S. Caring for Australian Wildlife, Australian Geographic, Terry Hills, NSW, 1997.
Nature Conservation Act 1992, Code of Practice, Care of Orphaned, Sick or Injured Protected Animals by Wildlife Care Volunteers, Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage.