The little Brown Antechinus makes a comeback at Sydney's North Head - Planet Ark Environmental Foundation

The little Brown Antechinus makes a comeback at Sydney's North Head

By Helen Nolan  July 20th, 2017

The Brown Antechinus might look like a small brown rodent, but is in fact a native carnivorous marsupial. After several decades being absent from North Head in NSW 30 of the tiny marsupials are back in the wild.


Recently, around 30 Brown Antechinus were reintroduced after the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) cleared the headland area of feral animals and launched initiatives for local residents to keep their pets indoors at night. The NPWS have also worked hard to eliminate weeds and other pests, which has also had a positive effect on the endangered Banksia scrub on North Head - the Brown Antechinus are vital to the pollination of the banksias.

The Brown Antechinus might look like a small brown rodent with its long pointed head, but is in fact a native carnivorous marsupial, greyish-brown in colour with a cream to white underbelly. Weighing up to 71 grams and very cute, the Brown Antechinus is distinctive among Australian marsupials in having no pouch (the young attach themselves to the mother’s teats). The species has been extinct at Sydney’s North Head for decades because of predators such as dogs, cats and foxes, as well as displacement by feral animals.

The Brown Antechinus is the third mammal to be returned to the North Head Banksia Scrub after the Eastern Pygmy Possum and the native Bush Rat. They have been sourced from six council reserves across the northern beaches to maximise genetic diversity. Mostly nocturnal, the mouse-sized marsupial preys upon insects, spiders, centipedes and the occasional small reptile or frog.

During the day, they will sleep in nest boxes spread across an 18ha site made up of complex Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub, hollows, logs and flowering plants. Around 20 infra-red camera traps have been installed to monitor the animals ensuring that general ecological information can be captured to observe and record nest box usage, foraging strategies, interactions between individuals and peak activity times.

The species’ survival rate is high thanks to the ongoing fox control program run by NPWS and the park’s neighbours. Each animal is microchipped before release, and a tissue sample taken for future genetic analysis. Some have been fitted with VHF transmitters so they can be tracked intensively in order to gather information on their survival, movements and nesting ecology.

Observation and research of the nest boxes will offer information on the social and nesting behaviour of this little creature. It’s known that they have a keen capacity to breed, with females capable of producing up to eight young a year for up to two years. Unfortunately for the males, they die off after a short but intensive mating season.

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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


By Helen Nolan

Helen pursues philanthropic endeavours that underpin her desire to care and nourish. She loves all creatures great and small and is thrilled to be writing for Planet Ark.

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