The extremely rare golden bandicoot has returned to NSW soil for the first time in over a century.

Story Anthony Ham   Photo UNSW Wild Deserts

At the beginning of June 2022, a small plane carrying precious cargo arrived at a remote airstrip in Sturt National Park, in far north-west NSW. On board were 27 golden bandicoots, brought 2,000km from WA by two Martu rangers, Ruth Wongawol and Valdera Morgan. 

Soon after their arrival, the bandicoots were released into a 20sq km exclosure and left to fend for themselves. They were the first golden bandicoots to set foot on NSW soil in more than a century.

Golden bandicoots were once everywhere across the outback, from the Kimberley, down the Pilbara coast and across Australia’s interior, to the Central West of NSW. But habitat loss and devastating fires sent the species into a rapid and devastating decline, with the golden bandicoot disappearing from 95% of its former range. The last golden bandicoots were seen in NSW early in the 20th century, and until June this year, only two small wild populations remained: in the Kimberley, and at Matuwa on Martu Country, in WA’s central west.

The reintroduction program in Sturt National Park is the work of Wild Deserts, a joint project between the University of NSW, NGO Ecological Horizons and the NSW Government. Unlike other similar reintroduction programs, the project’s principal ecologist Dr Rebecca West and her team started not by removing feral predators such as cats and foxes. They began by removing rabbits.

This story excerpt is from Issue #145

Outback Magazine: October/November 2022