LIFE

Rescuers Reintroduce Nearly Extinct Bettongs Into Australian Ecosystem

by Rebecca Landman
Rebecca is a writer living the Los Angeles dream. She loves hiking, music, and crocheting on her couch to the background lull of Netflix. She believes our world is complex. By sharing and listening to each other’s stories, we unpack that complexity layer by layer, learning more about who we are and how we want to live our lives. She writes to keep learning.

Many years ago, adorable eastern bettongs roamed Australia’s capital city of Canberra in droves.

By the early 20th century, though, new predators — foxes, cats, and even humans — began infiltrating these animals’ native home. Shortly thereafter, the new predators deemed eastern bettongs as threats to their budding agricultural enterprises, and set off eradicating them from the ecosystem.

Since then, these sweet, short-nosed marsupials have long since been considered extinct on the Australian mainland. Only a few were thought to inhabit parts of Tasmania, exiled from their original home.

A few years ago, ecologist Dr. Kate Grarock and her rescue team at Mulligan’s Flat Woodland Sanctuary stumbled upon this sad history, and sought to right the wrong inflicted on this incredible species way back when.

These animal rescuers began reintroducing small groupings of bettongs back into their original Canberra habitat.

Since 2012, the group has raised around 300 bettongs, whose presence they’ve watched remarkably impact the surrounding ecosystem in a beautifully positive way.

The team hopes to eventually see this budding species flourish once more in and around Canberra.

Scroll through our gallery to learn more about how these rescuers are saving this entire species, one precious marsupial at a time.

[H/T: Mashable]

bettong rescue

Many years ago, swarms of little marsupials called the eastern bettongs happily inhabited Australia’s capital city, Canberra.

However, at the turn of the 20th century, new humans along with their foxes and cats infiltrated these bettongs’ hometown, and slowly but surely exterminated the entire species.

They rid the land of bettongs for fear of these tiny creatures threatening their new agricultural economy.

As of late, eastern bettongs were thought to no longer inhabit Canberra, instead living in Tasmanian exile.

bettong rescue

However, in 2012, ecologist Dr. Kate Grarock and her team of rescuers at Mulligan’s Flat Woodland Sanctuary set out to change the bettongs’ fate.

For the past few years, Grarock and her team have focused their diligent attention on rebuilding Canberra’s local bettong population.

She told LittleThings, “Bettongs are amazing creatures, and it is so wonderful to have them back on mainland Australia.”

bettong rescue

She continued, telling LittleThings: “The introduction of foxes and cats to Australia has taken a huge toll on many of our small animals.

“Our native animals never had a chance to evolve a strategy to cope with such fearsome predators.”

Mulligan’s Flat’s rescuers now strive to give these little creatures a proper chance to survive in their new wild.

bettong rescue

Over the past four years, Grarock and her team have diligently rehabilitated over 300 bettongs.

She told LittleThings: “The Australian National University and ACT Government in partnership with the Woodlands and Wetlands Trust,” the non-government organization Grarock works for, “are working to restore a woodland near Canberra. We are introducing other species as well.”

bettong rescue

In addition to being completely cute, these little marsupials are helping boost the health of their surrounding ecosystem.

Grarock told LittleThings: “Bettongs are amazing creatures. They love eating truffles and, at night, they wake up to go find them.

“Research in our sanctuary discovered that each individual bettong does over 200 digs a night. This process is great for the health of the environment.

“They spread truffle spores in their droppings. The truffle spores have a symbolic relationship with tree roots, allowing the trees to absorb more nutrients and grow bigger and stronger.”

bettong rescue

To grow bettong awareness, Grarock also spends a good deal of time shuttling two of her hand-raised eastern bettongs, Berry and Brain, to elementary schools all over the area.

Through a program, supported by Bank Australia, she uses these cuties to teach kids about their hometown’s native animal population.

Grarock told LittleThings: “One of the messages we ask the children is to please tell people about our story.

“As I was leaving an event, a young girl stopped me and told me she was going to make posters about bettongs and put them up all around her suburb.

“The fact that people are talking about bettongs is so very exciting to me. These children go home and tell their parents and the message about our native species is slowly getting out there.”

bettong rescue

Grarock told LittleThings: “Our sanctuary keeps native animals safe from foxes and cats with a special fence.

“We want to extend this fence and almost triple the size of the sanctuary so we can have many more happy bettongs bouncing around.”

If you’d like to contribute to their mission, you can do so here.

In time, Mulligan’s Flat hopes to fully repopulate Canberra’s once-booming eastern bettong population, and make these little marsupials as well known as koalas or kangaroos.

She told LittleThings that this whole experience has taught her “just how disconnected people are becoming from nature. In order to protect and conserve nature, we first need people to value it.”

“We want to inspire people to care about our native species and get involved in helping to protect them.”

bettong rescue

Fated to wither off into extinction, the eastern bettongs luckily found caring rescuers, who continue patiently saving their entire species, one cuddly friend at a time.

What do you think of this rescue’s mission? Have you ever encountered a bettong? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

Would you like to contribute to Mulligan’s Flat’s mission? You can do so here.

Please SHARE the story of the adorable bettongs with other animal lovers in your community!