After a busy trip in Scotland where I've been assisting raptor researchers with fieldwork for the past 5 weeks, I'm now settling back into life in Perth. A good rainy start to the season of Makuru has set the creeks flowing and local wildlife is thriving in the newly replenished landscape. One animal that has made some frequent and delightful appearances is the Quenda or Southern Brown Bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus), a local native marsupial which is common and doing well here in the Perth Hills. Before I went overseas in June, I noticed one of the resident females had a bulging pouch, and closer investigation revealed this:
|A litter of embryonic Quenda suckle in the safety of their mother's pouch.|
In the above photo you can easily see the noses of three tiny Quenda, and with a closer look, the whiskered snout of a fourth is visible in the centre. It is amazing to note how well the young grip onto (and stretch) their mother's teats, taking in the all important protein-drink needed for growth and development. This marsupial can give birth to up to six young at a time, but normally there is not enough space in the pouch and it is common for only two or three to survive. This find of quadruplets, however, was very exciting, and made me think from then on that each time I saw the 'single' female, I was actually witnessing five Quenda at once!
Weeks later, I've seen at least two independent (but still small and dinky!) juvenile bandicoots foraging in the garden, and given the timing it follows that these are two animals from the above litter. Yesterday I disturbed one of the juveniles near the shed, and it promptly dashed to hide underneath some old wool-bags.
Yesterday morning while making a cuppa, I saw another juvenile (the same one?) quickly run between two clumps of vegetation about 50 m from the house, and an instant later, another similar-sized one was foraging at the edge of the brick paving outside the kitchen window. It was very exciting to watch it sniff out, grasp and then consume a whole grape which I'd put out for the local parrots :)
As I photographed the Quenda feeding, I noticed a small tick (a natural parasite harmless to the animal) hanging on its right flank. I often get asked by hills residents whether bandicoots bearing ticks should be trapped and the parasites removed, but my advice is always the same: being undergrowth dwellers, parasites are a natural part of the Quenda's ecology and unless the animal is riddled and looking like its health is being impacted, it's best to let nature take its course and leave things be.
It will be interesting to continue observing these beautiful animals over the coming weeks, and see for how long they are visibly active. Juvenile Quenda will be tolerated by adults (especially females) for some weeks or even months after weaning, but eventually they must disperse to search for their own territories, and it is during this time that they become highly prone to predation. After seeing how much effort goes into this new generation of local natives, it would be a great shame to know they'd been unnecessarily eaten by a roaming pet cat.