As ecologists learn Australian endemic species to protect themselves from predators

Как экологи учат австралийских эндемиков защищаться от хищников

Как экологи учат австралийских эндемиков защищаться от хищников

As ecologists learn Australian endemic species to protect themselves from predators

Rabbit Bandicoot and other Australian endemics suffer from invasive species.

May 15, 2019 at 17:00


For many thousands of years nature built evolutionary mechanisms for each kind of animals allow them to survive in this territory and in these conditions. But this balance was disrupted long ago: the planet is subject to invasive species, to combat which the local inhabitants are often not ready.

So, for example, occurred in the United States: delivered vessels water flea actively kills plankton, which is reflected in the quality of water. In the UK alien catfish prey on ducks, and in total the damage from the invasion of foreign species, the country assesses the level of 1.8 billion pounds per year.

In a particularly disastrous situation for Australia after being on an isolated continent flooded by the settlers, they brought with them the most different representatives of fauna. In the absence of natural predators they multiplied and occupied the territory, where previously local species feel komfortno. A few years ago, the authorities had to make unpopular decision about the extermination of two million stray cats: their fault the country has already lost 29 species and about 20 species of mammals were on the verge of extinction.

Among them – the rabbit Bandicoot (eared marsupial badger or ordinary bilby) is endemic to Australia. In addition to cats, these small animals destroy foxes. In addition, the number bilby seriously undermined the fight against rabbits (traps, poisoned baits). In an equally distressed – miniature short faced kangaroo Bettongia lesueur, whose size does not exceed 40 cm.

Environmentalists can’t solve all problems, but to measure the forces trying to help the vulnerable and endangered species. For the Bandicoot and short faced kangaroo has developed a unique program: animals from a very young age grow surrounded by cats and under the supervision of experts.

The experiment was Mosebi up with Katherine (Katherine Moseby) from the University of New South Wales. Knowing that goals need to Australian endemics understood the stability threats from invasive species and to develop mechanisms of protection, the ecologist, together with colleagues created the original polygon. First kangaroo and bilby gave to smell the dead cats, but it didn’t help. Then people just left the animals alone, allowing events to take their course. In their favor they received a lot of criticism, because in the course of the experiment a lot of kangaroo and the Bandicoot died. However, in a limited space this was a good lesson to the surviving individuals: five years was enough to animals have recognized the threat and adapt to it.

By the fourth generation of the kangaroo were born with longer back legs that help them escape from enemies. Both participated in the experiment, began to spend less time in open areas and are getting better at hiding. Recognizing these intermediate results are sufficient for the first stage, biologists released the animal in a fenced section of the reserve, providing RFID tags. There also have been brought conventional animals that have not been “training”.

The experience was quite successful: mortality inexperienced bilby and the kangaroo was 71%, whereas the trained animals were killed only in 30% of cases. These data showed the ecologists direction in which to work on. However, scientists admit that the method is hardly applicable for all affected species – primarily birds. In addition, they are reminded of the need and other measures to combat invasive species.

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