Autumn 2001
Native Mammal Species Available In South Australia



 Tim Keynes

In August 1988 I wrote an article entitled “Keeping Native Mammals In Schools”.  When this article was published, it was what I considered to be a comprehensive account of those species of native mammals readily available to schools (and private breeders) at the time.  The article included detailed information concerning the husbandry of these species.


Over the past twelve years it is interesting to see how many new species of native mammal have become available to private breeders in South Australia.  Stocks of new species have been made available to private breeders for a variety of reasons and from various legal sources.  It is the intention of the current article to highlight which species of native mammal are now available.  Please note that this article is specific to South Australia as the Fauna Laws in the other States of Australia either do not allow, or severely restrict, the private keeping of native mammals.


In the 1988 article, the species of native mammals available to private breeders in SA consisted of two species of carnivorous marsupials (the Fat-tailed Dunnart and Kowari); one omnivorous marsupial species (the Northern Brown Bandicoot); twenty-one species of herbivorous marsupials (including the Hairy-nosed Wombat, Ringtail and Brush-tailed Possums, Sugar and Squirrel Gliders, Long-nosed Potoroo, Brush-tailed, Tasmanian and Rufous Bettongs, three species of Pademelon, five species of Wallaby and four species of Kangaroo); and four species of native rodent (the Spinifex and Mitchell’s Hopping-mouse, Plain’s Rat and Western Chestnut Mouse).


Over the past twelve years several local Fauna Parks, Universities and Zoological Institutions have made excess stock available to private breeders.  Some private breeders have been proactive and have been able to legally obtain and import into South Australia other species from Interstate Zoos and Fauna Parks.  In addition, many more breeders are now more interested in the smaller species, particularly the carnivorous marsupials.


So then, what has changed?  Well, I will answer this question by discussing Australia’s native mammals in four broad groups.


Carnivorous Marsupials


Today quite a few new ones have been added to the list of species available to private breeders.  These include the Brush-tailed Phascogale (mainly due to a very successful captive breeding program at Healesville Sanctuary), Eastern and Northern Quolls, Stripe-faced and Fat-tailed Dunnarts, the Kowari and Mulgara (the latter still only kept in Fauna Parks at present), Agile and Brown Antechinus (and possibly soon the Yellow-footed Antechinus).  In addition, the Numbat (currently only held locally in Fauna Parks), Red-cheeked, Common and Little Long-tailed Dunnarts, Yvonne’s Ningaui and some of the Planigales have all been kept in captivity recently.  So things in this group are certainly looking most positive.


Omnivorous Marsupials


Twelve years ago only the Northern Brown Bandicoot was available.  Regrettably, today the Northern Brown is basically unavailable.  It bred so well that most people who kept it separated their sexes and stopped breeding them.  The animals then got old and died, and before we knew what happened we had lost the species!  Greater care must be taken in future.  On the wider front in this group, the Greater Bilby is kept by many Fauna Parks and Educational Institutions and it is, hopefully, only a matter of time before private breeders will have access to this species.  The local bandicoot species (the Southern Brown Bandicoot) has been kept by several private breeders, although not many animals seem to be currently available.  The Eastern Barred Bandicoot is kept in good numbers in Interstate Fauna Parks and may also eventually become available to private breeders.


Herbivorous Marsupials


This is perhaps the most diverse group.  The Koala is kept in most Fauna Parks, although it is rarely kept privately.  Both the Common and Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat are kept and bred in good numbers.  The Eastern Pigmy-possum is held in low numbers (and hopefully soon the Western Pigmy-possum too), while Sugar (all three sub-species) and Squirrel (two sub-species) Gliders are both held in very good numbers.  In addition, the Feathertail Glider is also being kept and bred in SA.  The Common Ringtail Possum and Common Brush-tailed Possum remain as popular as ever, but today at least one other Brush-tailed species (the Mountain) and three sub-species of the Common are available (namely the Tasmanian, Coppery and Northern).  In addition, some breeders also keep some other colour morphs of the Common Brush-tail.  In the smaller macropods, the Rufous and Brush-tailed Bettongs are as popular as ever, as are the Long-nosed Potoroos.  Both the Burrowing and Northern Bettong species are held in Fauna Parks, as is the Mala.  In the Kangaroos and Wallabies, the Agile, Black-striped, Dama, Parma, Red-necked (and Bennett’s), Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby (in Fauna Parks and Zoos only), the Tasmanian and Red-necked Pademelons, Swamp Wallaby, Quokka, Western Grey (and Kangaroo Island sub-species), Eastern Grey and Red Kangaroos and the Euro are all kept in reasonable numbers.


Native Rodents


In 1988 four species were being kept in reasonable numbers.  This has in fact decreased to two today!  Unfortunately, only the Spinifex Hopping-mouse and Plain’s Rat remain commonly available.  The Mitchell’s Hopping-mouse and Western Chestnut Mouse do not even seem to be kept any more.  However, many other species of native rodent have been kept in captivity in SA, particularly in Scientific or Educational Institutions, although, regrettably, not many of them have been successfully bred past the second generation.  Accordingly, excess animals are rarely available to private breeders.  The species known to have been kept are as follows.  The Brush-tailed Tree-rat, Greater Stick-nest Rat, Black-footed and Golden-backed Tree-rats, both the Fawn and Dusky Hopping-mice, Silky Mouse, Kakadu Pebble-mound Mouse, Sandy Inland Mouse, Kimberley Mouse, New Holland Mouse, Heath Rat, Common Rock-rat, Giant White-tailed rat, plus all the native Rattus species.  It would be nice if at least some of these were find their way legally into private collections in the near future.


The above is a simple summary of what has happened over the past twelve years and I do not intend to provide any husbandry information here.  I do, however, wish to advise that The Marsupial Society of Australia Inc. - Editorial Sub-Committee intends to publish detailed husbandry notes on many of these species in the “Keeping Marsupials” Journal over the next few years.  An example of what we would like to see published on each species is included in this issue – please refer to the article on the Brush-tailed Phascogale.

Bennett's Wallaby
Juvenile NT Brushtail Possum
Swamp Wallaby
Golden Brushtail Possum
Red Kangaroos
Yellow-footed Rock-wallabies
Baby Squirrel Glider
Sugar Glider

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