Successful Breeding and Reduction
of Juvenile Mortality in the
Long Nosed Bandicoot (Perameles
Lance Jurd. B.Sc.,N.D.,D.B.M.,D.N.
Please click on thumbnail to enlarge
The long nosed bandicoot perameles
nasuta is found in Eastern Australia
from Northern Queensland to Southern Victoria.
They were once found throughout Sydney but over
the year’s urbanisation, feral animals and
domestic dogs and cats have caused local
extinctions. They were once abundant in
Riverstone and I remember feeding them at our
back doorstep as a child. They were also seen
at Wentworthville, Seven Hills and Quakers Hill
but are now locally extinct
The Long Nosed bandicoot is the last bandicoots
to survive in the Sydney Harbour area within a
few kilometres of Manly at North Head. There
have been bandicoots around the harbour for
maybe as long as forty million years and we are
seeing them slowly disappear and this is
extremely fast on an evolutionary scale.
The aim of my research was to find a better way
to breed them in captivity reducing juvenile
mortality therefore producing large numbers that
could be released into the wild especially
around North Head. It is only a matter of time
before they are endangered. My project began
in January 1995 and finished in October 2001and
required a lot of time and money to complete.
This is not a scientific paper as such, but a
demonstration of how to successfully keep and
breed bandicoots. No weighing of animals or
checking pouches occurred as this only stresses
the animals. I initially had one male and two
females and others were added each year to
ensure genetic variation.
All juvenile bandicoots once weaned and left the
pouch all reached maturity and no deaths
occurred in juveniles in six years. This
procedure could be used for the Eastern Barred
Bandicoot perameles gunni and possibly
In designing a program like this I’ve taken into
consideration other breeding programs done by
A.G. Lyne, E. Stodart, Julie A Murphy, and
Ray Williams. I used
their ideas as a starting basis. The
important aspects for my own project was to have
a compartmentised enclosure, live and prepared
foods and to not handle the animals. This can
cause stress in perameles nasuta causing
them to kill there young or die prematurely.
Housing and Shelter.
The enclosure is 300 square metres (20m x 15m)
set on a rich loam base. It is compartmentised
into five sections, which gives the animals’
areas to themselves without being able to see
other bandicoots. This is very important in a
small enclosure and necessary for successful
breeding. They are able to move about freely
to different compartments except section 1 (see
plan at end of paper). This area is a
temporary digging area that also contains a
pond, which attracts insects. The bandicoots
were allowed in this area from 7pm until 10pm
where there was an abundance of worms and grubs.
This area had no wire covering it and was
illuminated with a 25watt globe that had been
painted with transparent ultramarine oil paint
and glaze medium. This allowed a diffused
light effect allowing you to see the animals but
not too bright on their eyes.
The enclosure walls were a flat sheet galvanised
iron that was painted green. The iron was
implanted into the ground 30cm and was above the
ground 82cm. It was held together with 5cm x
10cm timber and posts from the outside. The
compartment walls were made the same and were
covered with chicken wire to prevent predation
by cats, dogs and owls.
Section 2 was 180cm high so you could walk into
it and also had a door allowing bandicoots into
section 1. Both sections 2 and 4 were
partially covered to allow some shelter.
Section 3 had two 1 metre squared raised
boards which were 15cm off the ground. They made
their nests from tussock grass under these
boards as well as out in the open.
of the cage showing raised board
with bandicoot about to come out.
Bandicoots eating prepared food.
Please click on thumbnail to enlarge
Hollow logs were also available in the
enclosure, which they used sometimes. Long
tussock grass was planted in the enclosure to
provide shelter and security for the juveniles.
The floor in section 2 and 3 were kept moist
so that compost worms could be put there for the
bandicoots to dig up. Section 3 was used as a
cricket feeding area. A maximum of 15
bandicoots were kept in this enclosure,
including the juveniles and showed no problems
with disease. A compost heap was put inside
the enclosure to attract insects.
Perameles Nasuta is mainly insectivorous,
digging the ground for worms and grubs but also
eat insects on top on the ground. In captivity
they were given both live and prepared food to
ensure maximum health
and prevent disease.
1. Live Food
(A). Compost Worms were kept in white
disused grape boxes 52cm x 35cm. The substrate
was a mixture of peat moss, sand and soil. They
were fed chicken mash and vegetable scraps.
Strips of cardboard were put on top of the
substrate over the food. A thousand worms were
bought at a time and I had six containers in
use. About 30-50 worms were put into sections
2 and 3 every second day.
(B). Mealworms were kept in used ice
cream containers in a mixture of bran and
pollard. They were given sliced carrots,
apple, and potato. A sponge soaked in water
provided water for them. Mealworms were given
everyday to the bandicoots in a small bowls
within section 3.
(C). Brown Crickets were given
everyday, so I also had a breeding program for
them. This was to keep up a healthy supply
because they are an important food source for
bandicoots. Three containers were used to hold
them. Two containers 25cm x 35cm x 45cm were
used to hold breeding crickets and juveniles.
The other container 56cm x 39cm x 30cm was
used for adults. Half of the lids were cut
away and fly screen was hot glued in this area.
The half that was not cut away goes over the
light source. The boxes were fitted with a
40watt frosted ultramarine painted blue light.
One was fitted with a thermostat set at 25
degrees Celsius and this controlled the three
The breeding box contained 15 females and 10
males and these were changed every three weeks.
Eggs were laid in Chinese food punnets with a
substrate of 2/3 sand and 1/3 peat moss. This
was kept moist by spraying with a water mister.
After 5 days it is taken out and a new one put
in. A lid with holes in it is put on with the
date marked and this is put into the juvenile
The eggs hatch in about 20 days and they are fed
cabbage leaves, lettuce and bran. The leaves
are sprayed with water. Egg cartons can be put
in also. They reach maturity in 12 weeks.
The adult crickets have egg cartons, cardboard
separators and used toilet roll centres to hide
in. There diet consists of cabbage, lettuce,
endives, beet tops, radish, apple, cabbage,
potatoes, carrots and cuttle fish bone for
calcium. There was also a mixture of bran,
oatmeal, cornmeal, and crushed rat and Eukanuba®
Premium pellets. Water was supplied in small
plastic dishes with sponge in it. They were also
given oranges before feeding to the bandicoots.
Other live foods were beetles, cockroaches,
grasshoppers, slaters, any soil dwelling
invertebrates, grubs, millipedes, moths,
earwigs, snails and black crickets.
2. Prepared food.
eating the prepared food on a
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A lot of time was spent trying different foods
to find out what the bandicoots liked best, so
there was no waste of food. There was no use
giving the bandicoots food which they never
consumed. The following foods were
always eaten by the bandicoots.
1. Eukanuba® Premium - 1 cup soaked in water
while the other foods were prepared.
2. 1 cup of premium beef mince cooked in a
saucepan and the fat and liquid drained off.
Then an egg is added and stirred in while
still cooking, remove from heat and than add 1
dessertspoon of Wombaroo® small carnivore mix
and stir in well.
3. Half a cup of Heinz® high protein cereal.
Just add enough water to make a paste but not
4. Sardines. 4 or 5 broken up and use paper
towel to soak up any oil.
5. Wholemeal bread with a little peanut butter.
The nutritive bread was also given twice a
week. The recipe is given at the end of this
6. Melons and black dried currants were also
7. Water was always available in tin bowls.
8. Other foods given occasionally were tropical
fruits, hulled sunflower seed, blackberries,
mulberries, banana, apple, sweet potato, turnip
Their diet did not vary much from this and they
seemed to thrive on it and bred continuously for
most of the year except during winter. There
was a lot of food given but the combination of
live and prepared food kept them healthy and
Typical Nest showing the use of
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Nests were dug out as a depression in the
ground, where the bandicoot would lie. They
would use leaves and tussock grass to line it,
with tussock grass and soil also on top. The
size of the nest varied from 30cm to 60cm and
entrance was not visible once the bandicoots
inhabited it. Nests sometimes contained two
bandicoots and juveniles and were quite warm
even in winter.
Some nests were made of leaves and soil that
were not apparent until the bandicoot emerged.
Tussock grass placed in the enclosure was
quickly used for nesting with little left the
next morning. Nest building usually occurred
after 10pm when the bandicoots had finished
their food and foraging. To gather the tussock
grass they used their forelegs and pulled it
back towards them. They would dig a depression
and use their body to form the shape of the nest
and pull the grass into place.
young juvenile following the mother
Please click on thumbnail to
Breeding occurred most of the year except for a
low in winter. Most litters were usually 2 or
3 juveniles but occasionally they would have 5.
Their oestrous cycle is about 20 days and the
gestation 12.5 days, the shortest of any
marsupial. They have 8 teats in a pouch that
opens downward and backward.
Mating occurred at any time but usually before
midnight. Many times in summer they would come
out before dark usually 5pm onwards and mate.
The male would not follow the female long
before mating in daylight. At night the male
would follow the female persistently up to
several hours before mating.
The young grow rapidly and the first hairs
appear at about 40 days, the eyes open at 45-50
days, and weaning at 60 days. When the young
are 50 days old the mother can mate again. In
one case the mother mated while the young were
still in the pouch on the 4/12/97. The
young came out of the pouch and were left in the
nest on the 10/12/97 while the mother foraged
for food. On the 19/12/97 the juveniles left
the nest and foraged for themselves and the
mother produced another litter.
The loss of pouch young due to stress and
handling was common according to Lyne 1982.
Young were either found dead or eaten by the
mother. Hall 1983 found no difference
in litter size during pouch development but a
high mortality rate after leaving the pouch.
E. Stodart claims that of 35 young
born, from 12 litters only 12 made it to
weaning. This didn't occur in the bandicoots I
bred, all juveniles that left the pouch reached
maturity and no deaths occurred. I believe
this was due to high quality food, a
compartmentised enclosure and not handling
Juveniles once out of the pouch would follow the
mother and watch her dig and participate as
well. They soon learnt where the mealworms
were and the prepared food. The key to keeping
them alive was the use of the high protein
cereal, sardines, and meat and egg mix. They
would lick at the high protein cereal and eat
the meat than they would just follow the mother
around and return to the plate occasionally.
quite young they would return to the pouch while
the mother was still feeding.
Some Observations on behaviour.
Bandicoot foraging for crickets
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Over the almost six year period they were
watched on many nights, but mostly from dusk up
until 11.30pm. Most of their eating, foraging,
mating, and water drinking occurred in this
period; after midnight many had returned to
their nests, or lay on the ground with their
legs stretched out relaxing. This occurred a
lot in summer on hot nights; similar to how a
dog might lay down. I believe this behaviour
may be due to the fact that the bandicoots were
given food rather than searching for it, whereas
in the wild populations more time may have been
spent searching for food.
They were feed usually 30 minutes before
dark. I began to call to them ‘come on’ and
they got used to hearing my voice and related it
to food. So eventually they would come out
when they heard me and from different sections
of the enclosure; this was before it was dark.
This continued with their offspring as well
and become part of the daily feeding routine.
The first food that they would eat was the
mealworms that were in a separate bowl.
Bandicoots have an extremely strong sense of
smell and this bowl could be put anywhere but
they would quickly find it. Then they would
start on the prepared food.
Brown crickets were always given after they
consumed some of the prepared food. Their
behaviour would change immediately and I believe
this sharpened their natural instincts. They
would run after the crickets and stop to listen
to the movement of the cricket through the
grass. Then they would pounce on them with
their forelegs together and pick the cricket up
with their teeth. If they missed the cricket
they would move their head fast and zone in on
where the cricket had moved to and excitedly
pounce again. This was an important part of
their lives as they acted as wild bandicoots and
not captive ones.
The interaction between males in the enclosure
was usually brief but sometimes there was a
chase, or hissing at each other and standing on
their back legs. No serious injuries ever
occurred from fighting except fur off the back,
but rarely. One male would move to another
section and that would be it.
I did not find the Long-nosed Bandicoot
aggressive or entirely solitary as compared to
the Northern Brown Bandicoot. They ate at the
plates together and were not aggressive towards
one another. Whilst digging food they weren't
aggressive unless another bandicoot tried to get
In the open section where they could dig for 3
hours they would come back and forth freely
between section 1 and the other sections. I
would sit in this section and they were not
afraid to come up and dig around my feet, as
they were used of human contact and because I
did not handle the animals I posed no threat to
There was a sheet of plastic at the edge of the
pond where cockroaches, crickets, slaters, and
spiders would hide and they would go under there
for food and sometimes try to make there nests
there. At 10pm they would be taken out of
section 1, this was a simple matter of rounding
them up and herding them in the right
Sometimes there was some that did not want to go
because they were still digging and they would
stand on their back legs and hiss but they were
eventually persuaded. In six years I was
never bitten by any of them despite the fact
that they had no fear of me at all.
Sometimes juveniles would be put into another
pen and when they reached 5 months old they were
released. I never encountered any tics on
them (or me) all the time I kept them, even
though they are renowned for tics.
Grooming was done daily, mainly scratching with
the hind foot or the snout, but this lasted a
few minutes and than they continued with they’re
foraging. No diseases occurred in these animals.
They had a distinct squeak, which they made when
moving around which puts them at a disadvantage
These bandicoots are omnivores feeding on or
under the ground. They are nocturnal usually
emerging at dusk but sometimes an hour before
that. They were very active when they were out
but also had periods where they retired to their
nests during the night. On nights when it was
cold and damp they would retire to their nests
and not be seen again.
They did not defend territories in the enclosure
and rested together in nests during the day.
Stodart claims that of the seven bandicoots
released in 500 square metres only 3 survived
after 2 weeks. I believe this was because of
the food availability rather than density of
space, as up to 15 lived in my compartmentised
enclosure only 300 square metres without
The Long-nosed Bandicoot (Perameles
Please click on thumbnail to enlarge
Overall, the bandicoots were easy to keep and
maintain and were not aggressive and bred easily
Recommendations for the survival of Bandicoots.
It is known that seven species of the eleven
Australian bandicoots are now either extinct or
endangered and have a severely diminished
distribution. They have been under enormous
strain since European settlement, firstly
through heavy grazing by sheep and cattle
removing ground cover, then the introduction of
foxes and cats. Foxes are land sharks they
don't belong here and should never have been
brought to this country. They will move into
an area and will continue to eat until there is
nothing left and than move on. Bandicoots have
no chance against a fox and I believe they have
caused more Australian animals to become
endangered or extinct than from any other cause.
In urban areas land clearing takes away their
habitat but everyone wants cats and dogs and
that finishes any chance of survival for the
bandicoot. Even in places where there was
plenty of bandicoots in the Vineyard area, that
was across the creek and the habitat is still
the same and untouched; the bandicoots are now
gone due to the foxes. I have seen this first
hand and what has happened over the last forty
years. It is only a matter of time before all
bandicoots will be endangered except up Cape
York and where man has intervened such as the
Eastern Barred bandicoot in Victoria. The
reason is that if you are not monitoring an area
than they can be becoming locally extinct
without anyone realising it. Cats and foxes
are killing bandicoots every night on the East
Coast of Australia and their numbers are
decreasing. It is only a matter of time before
there all gone.
Captive breeding programs are one way to
increase their numbers but where do you put them
unless you have fenced areas. The Woodlands
Historic Park was a great idea for Eastern
Barred Bandicoot because there was 400 hectares
with a 1.8 metre high electric fence. Earth
Sanctuaries was also good because it kept out
foxes and cats and gave the bandicoots a
chance. Breeding them and putting them back
into the wild is useless as the foxes and cats
will only eat them.
I have purchased 55 acres of natural bush but
without a fence it’s hard to protect anything.
I will just do my bit to protect what I can and
hope other people do the same.
1988. The distribution, population abundance,
status, movement and activity of the eastern
barred bandicoot at Hamilton. B.Sc. thesis; La
Trobe University, Bundoora Victoria.
A.G. Lyne; The bandicoots Isoodon macrourus
and Perameles nasuta; their maintenance
and breeding in captivity. C.S.I.R.O.
Julie A. Murphy; Behaviour of Eastern Barred
Bandicoots, Perameles gunni, Breeding in
E.Stodart; Management and Behaviour of breeding
groups of the marsupial Perameles nasuta
Geoffrey in Captivity.
Bandicoots- Their housing, feeding and breeding.
This is a whole
food containing all the vital nutrients. It
builds strength and vitality.
1/3 cup maize
1/3 cup rye
1/3 cup millet
of rice bran
1/2 cup water
virgin olive oil
3 dessertspoons barley, 2 dessertspoons rye, 2
dessertspoons wheat, 2 dessertspoons brown rice,
soak in water 10 hours, strain, let sprout 24
minerals, and blend lightly in blender.
1. Mix the dry
ingredients and than the blended grain in a bowl
2. Add water
and oil and mix into a dough.
3. Put on
board and knead and than roll out ˝ cm thick.
4. Put on
greased baking tray and cut into 4cm squares.
5. Bake in
oven for 40 minutes at 140 degrees Celsius.
Keep in container in refrigerator.