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Gilbert’s Potoroo (Potorous gilbertii)

Endagered Species Classification

ex
Extinct
ew
Extinct in the Wild
ce
Critically Endangered
en
Endangered
vu
Vulnerable
cd
Conservation Dependent

On the brink of extinction: Gilbert’s Potoroo was thought to be extinct since the early 1900s. Then in 1994 they were rediscovered at Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve near Albany, Western Australia. It is unlikely that many more than 30 animals exist in this sole wild population.

The species and its habitat are subject to a number of ongoing and potential threats including uncontrolled bushfire, predation from foxes and cats, habitat clearance and the dieback disease caused by the root pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi.

Recovery actions include baiting to control foxes, investigating the impact of cats on Potoroos, hygiene protocols to stop the spread of Phytophthora cinnamomi and a captive breeding program. Unfortunately the captive breeding program has not been very successful. Between 2005 and 2007, the  WA Department of Environment and Conservation moved 10 potoroos from the original colony at Two Peoples Bay to predator-free Bald Island, as insurance against the loss of the tiny mainland population. FAME supported the establishment of a 308 ha feral free enclosure in Waychinicup National Park, 25km east of Albany, Western Australia. In 2010, nine potoroos were released into this area. Monitoring indicates that these potoroos have been breeding and the population expanding.  

Description
Appearance: A medium-sized mammal slightly smaller than a rabbit, with a dense coat of soft grey-brown fur.  Adult males weigh 1100g and females 900g. Their head and body is 270 mm long and tail a further 210 mm long. The snout is slender and slightly curved downwards as in other potoroos.  The sides of the face are furred giving the appearance of heavy jowls.  The ears are rounded and almost completely buried in the fur.  The tail is lightly furred, and curls up tightly when the animal is at rest.  When standing the animal has a hunched appearance.  The forefeet have long curved claws that are capable of digging and handling food items with great dexterity.  The hind feet are long, as in the other members of the kangaroo family.  Gilbert’s Potoroos place their forefeet on the ground when moving slowly, but hop on their hind feet when moving rapidly.

Behaviour: The potoroos nest during the day and at times during the night in bowl-shaped depressions beneath low bushes, generally well hidden beneath the shrub canopy.

Diet: Fruiting bodies of underground fungi (sometimes called ‘truffles’) make up over 90% of the diet of Gilbert’s Potoroo.  These fungi are dependent on trees that are affected by the dieback disease Phytophthora cinnamomi. Other food items such as berries, fleshy seedpods and insects are sometimes eaten, but only in small quantities.

Click here to download a factsheet about the Gilbert’s Potoroo (Potorous gilbertii)

Last updated May 2015