Leporillus conditor 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Rodentia Muridae

Scientific Name: Leporillus conditor (Sturt, 1848)
Common Name(s):
English Greater Stick-nest Rat, House-building Rat
French Rat Architecte
Spanish Rata Arquitecto
Taxonomic Notes: No subspecies are recognised for Leporillus conditor.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2012-12-31
Assessor(s): Woinarski, J. & Burbidge, A.A.
Reviewer(s): Amori, G.
Contributor(s): Morris, K., Copley, P., Baynes, A. & Legge, S.

The Greater Stick-nest Rat population is increasing and the number of locations is increasing because of introductions (assisted colonisation) to Reevesby and Saint Peter Islands, South Australia, and to Salutation Island, Shark Bay, Western Australia. It has also been reintroduced (assisted colonisation) to the Arid Recovery Project mainland island, Roxby Downs, South Australia, and to Scotia Sanctuary mainland island, New South Wales. The species is listed as Near Threatened, because it could qualify for Vulnerable under criterion D1 or D2 if some of these islands or mainland sites become unsuitable due to the arrival of introduced predators. The Greater Stick-nest Rat is ‘conservation dependent’, as it is ‘dependent on ongoing conservation measures’ (IUCN 2001) and a specific conservation program (EPBC Act). This category is available and appropriate under the EPBC Act, but no longer available in the IUCN Red List.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Subfossil data combined with information from early explorers and naturalists show that the distribution of Stick-nest Rats formed arcs along the south-eastern, southern and south-western boundaries of the arid zone, from western Victoria to North West Cape. The Greater Stick-nest Rat had a more restricted distribution along the arid zone boundary than did the Lesser Stick-nest Rat (L. apicalis). It did not occur in the Great Victoria Desert, and was probably absent from the northern parts of the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia. There is little evidence of it much south-west of the arid zone boundary. However, unlike the Lesser Stick-nest Rat, it did occur all over the Nullarbor (A. Baynes pers. comm).

The Greater Stick-nest Rat became extinct on mainland Australia in the 1930s, remaining only on the Franklin Islands (5.1 km²), South Australia (Copley 1988, 1999). It has been introduced (assisted colonisation) to Salutation Island (1.7 km²), Shark Bay, Western Australia, Reevesby Island (3.7 km²) and Saint Peter Island (37.3 km²), South Australia, and to Arid Recovery Project mainland island (600 km²), Roxby Downs, South Australia, and to Scotia mainland island (Stage 1 only, 41.6 km²), New South Wales. A translocation to Faure Island Sanctuary in Shark Bay in 2006 apparently failed, probably because of the release technique; a follow-up translocation is planned for 2013, with modified release techniques (S. Legge pers. comm).
Countries occurrence:
Australia (New South Wales, Queensland - Regionally Extinct, South Australia, Victoria - Regionally Extinct, Western Australia)
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:690Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):No
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:526400
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):NoExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:6
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


In 2008, it was estimated that there were 600 individuals on Salutation Island, probably about 1,000 on the Franklin Islands, and 1,000 on Saint Peter Island (Morris and Copley 2008). A 2011 visit to the Franklin Islands to source animals for release at Mt Gibson Sanctuary (WA) found Stick-nest Rats to be relatively common and easy to obtain for the translocation (P. Copley pers. comm). There are about 670 in the Arid Recovery Reserve (2011:, an unknown number in Scotia Sanctuary, but likely to be more than 50 mature individuals (M. Hayward pers. comm.), fewer than 10 at Heirisson Prong (Morris and Copley 2008) and 600-1,000 on Reevesby Island (P. Copley pers. comm). A small semi-captive colony at Mt Gibson Sanctuary, north of Perth, was established from Franklin Islands stock in 2011; this population (currently 50-60 individuals) will be released into a large mainland island on the Sanctuary (ca 6,000 ha) in 2014 (S. Legge pers. comm).

Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:3000-4000Continuing decline of mature individuals:No
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:It is found in areas of perennial succulent and semi-succulent shrubland. Animals shelter in seabird burrows and amongst rocks (Lee 1995). On islands, the species lives in family groups of 10 to 20 individuals in large nests constructed of sticks. Females give birth to between one and three young after a gestation period of 44 days (Robinson 2008). Reintroduced populations on the mainland live in family groups of about 5-6 individuals.
Generation Length (years):2

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The Greater Stick-nest Rat is not utilized.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The major threat for L. conditor is predation by feral cats and red foxes. Both species have caused the extinction of medium-size mammals on Australian islands (Copley 1999, Burbidge and Manly 2002).

Island subpopulations of Greater Stick-nest Rat may be susceptible to disease (Adams and Fenwick 2004). Furthermore failure to maintain mainland island and captive colonies: some issues with captive colonies, including obesity and cataracts.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: When the first draft recovery plan for the Greater Stick-nest Rat was written in 1993, the species was listed nationally as Endangered. That recovery plan (Copley 1993, revised 1994 and 1995), had a stated objective of upgrading the conservation status to Vulnerable within five years. That objective was met through: maintaining the Franklin Island population(s), establishing an effective captive breeding program, increasing the number of wild populations from one to three (or more), substantially increasing the geographic spread of these populations within the species’ known former range, and increasing the number of mature individuals from ca 1,000 to ca 5,000 (or more), with each population consisting of at least 500 mature individuals (the equivalent of each of the two Franklin Islands).

The ‘Review of the Recovery Plan for the Greater Stick-nest Rat, Leporillus conditor’ (Copley 1999b), noted that all five success criteria had been met and as a result of its recommendation the species status listing was improved from Endangered to Vulnerable. This is significant as it is one of few Australian mammal species to have changed status in a positive direction due to management and to have sustained that recovery. Since that time further subpopulations have been established, increasing overall extent of occurrence (EOO), area of occupancy (AOO), number of subpopulations, and population size.

The Franklin Islands subpopulation was the source of animals for a captive-breeding program, commenced in 1985, which in turn became the source for translocations to islands and mainland islands. Greater Stick-nest Rats were introduced to Reevesby Island, South Australia, in 1990, to Saint Peter Island, South Australia, in 1993-94 (Robinson 2008), and to Salutation Island, Western Australia, in 1990 (Morris 2000).

Subpopulations within mainland islands exist at Heirisson Prong, Shark Bay, Western Australia, the Arid Recovery Project, Roxby Downs, South Australia and Scotia Sanctuary, New South Wales. Moseby and Bice (2004) and Moseby et al. (2011) have documented the translocation to the Arid Recovery Reserve at Roxby Downs, in 1998-99.

The Franklin Islands are within the Nuyts Archipelago Wilderness Protected Area, and Saint Peter Island is part of the Nuyts Archipelago Conservation Park, both managed by the South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources. Reevesby Island is part of the Sir Joseph Banks Group Conservation Park, also managed by the South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources. Salutation Island is a nature reserve, managed by the Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation.

The Useless Loop Community Biosphere Project Group manages Heirisson Prong. The Arid Recovery Project is a joint conservation initiative between BHP Billiton, the local community, the South Australian Department for Environment and Natural Resources and the University of Adelaide.

Citation: Woinarski, J. & Burbidge, A.A. 2016. Leporillus conditor. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T11634A22457522. . Downloaded on 19 September 2018.
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