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Bettongia tropica 

Scope: Global
Language: English
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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Diprotodontia Potoroidae

Scientific Name: Bettongia tropica
Species Authority: Wakefield, 1967
Common Name(s):
English Northern Bettong
Taxonomic Notes: Groves in Wilson and Reeder (1993) considered this to be a synonym of B. penicillata. See Nowak (1999) for other arguments. The Australasian Marsupial SG maintain this as a good species (Andrew Burbidge pers. comm).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered B2ab(i,ii,iii,iv,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2012-12-31
Assessor(s): Burbidge, A.A. & Woinarski, J.
Reviewer(s): Johnson, C.N. & Hawkins, C.
Contributor(s): Baker, A., Kanowski, J., Legge, S. & Pacifici, M.
Justification:
The Northern Bettong is assessed as Endangered because its area of occupancy is <200 km², all individuals are from fewer than six locations (probably three), there is a continuing decline in the extent and quality of habitat, and an inferred continuing decline in number of mature individuals due to habitat loss and degradation and changing fire regimes, as well as a possible decline in the number of locations.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Northern Bettong is endemic to north-eastern Queensland. Currently there are three localities with extant populations: the western side of the Lamb Range (includes Davies Creek, Emu Creek and Tinaroo subpopulations), the western edge of the Mt Carbine Tableland, and the Coane Range (Paluma) (last confirmed record 2003: Dennis 2012). One other locality, Mt Windsor Tableland, may have an extant population (last confirmed record 2003: Dennis 2012). A population in the vicinity of Ravenshoe has not been seen since the 1920s. A single individual was recorded from the Dawson Valley (near Rockhampton) in 1884; no Northern Bettongs have been seen in this area since that year (Dennis 2001; Winter et al. 2008). It has been recorded at elevations between 800 m and 1,200 m asl (Winter et al. 2008). Although Mt Spurgeon (Carbine Tableland) has not been properly surveyed since the early 1990s, recent unconfirmed records of Northern Bettongs have been received from a reliable source (A. Baker pers. comm).
Countries occurrence:
Native:
Australia (Queensland)
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:188Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:6023
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):YesExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:3Continuing decline in number of locations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:NoLower elevation limit (metres):800
Upper elevation limit (metres):1200
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Of the three localities with confirmed extant populations, only the Lamb Range (includes Davies Creek, Emu Creek and Tinaroo subpopulations) has a substantial number of individuals over a broad area (densities of 4-7 individuals/km²). Mt. Carbine Tableland (and formerly the Coane Range) have small and restricted subpopulations occurring at low densities (Dennis 2001, Winter et al. 2008). No Northern Bettongs have been seen at either the Coane Range or Mt Windsor Tableland since 2003, despite considerable survey effort, and the status of this population is unknown (Dennis 2001, Winter et al. 2008, Bateman et al. 2012b, Mulder et al. 2012).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:5000-10000Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
No. of subpopulations:5
All individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

The Northern Bettong is found only within a thin strip of sclerophyll forest along the western margin of rainforest in the ecotone between savanna woodland and rainforest. Its habitat includes a range of eucalypt forest types, from tall and wet forest dominated by Eucalyptus grandis and tall forest dominated by E. resinifera, abutting the rainforest, to medium height and drier woodlands dominated by Corymbia citriodora and C. platyphylla (Johnson and McIlwee 1997, Dennis 2001, Winter et al. 2008).

This species is solitary and nocturnal. Northern Bettongs are heavily dependent on truffles (the underground fruiting bodies of fungi) as a food source during the wetter parts of the year. The more than 35 species eaten comprise over 45% of their diet, depending on location and season. They also eat roots, tubers, the underground parts of grasses, small invertebrates, and seeds; Cockatoo Grass Alloteropsis semialata is particularly important food when truffle abundance is low (Winter et al. 2008, Bateman and Johnson 2011). During the late part of the dry season when truffle availability is low they are particularly dependent on the swollen underground tubers of Cockatoo Grass (A. Baker pers. comm).

Home ranges are typically 50-70 hectares, but may be as large as 120 hectares (Winter et al. 2008). Vernes (2003) found that male Northern Bettongs have a larger range of movements than females, 72 ± 10.9 ha versus 49 ± 8.4 ha. However, both genders had a high mean rate of movement while foraging. Ranges overlapped for individuals, both between and within sexes. At the site studied by Vernes (2000), small-scale, low intensity fire had no impact on the location or use of individuals’ home ranges. Both during and after a fire, individuals remained within the limits of their movements prior to the fire and there was no direct or indirect mortality of bettongs associated with fire. Despite the lack of broad-scale changes to movements associated with fire, there were clear changes in the fine scale movements and foraging patterns of bettongs immediately after a fire. Search effort for truffles becomes focussed, the level of foraging success is higher and the foraging path more sinuous in recently burnt areas compared to unburnt areas (Vernes 2000). At the site studied by Vernes (2000), fire did not completely remove cover, with bettongs particularly seeking shelter under boulders which are common at the site; the impacts of fire may be different elsewhere, particularly sites on rhyolite (much of the Coane Range population) where boulders are rare.

Systems:Terrestrial
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):3
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The main threats tot his species are:
  1. Predation by feral cats (moderate to severe): feral Cats shown to be a significant predator of the closely-related Woylie in south-western Australia.
  2. Climate change (moderate to severe): detailed climate modelling has shown that extended drought is likely to reduce the distribution of Northern Bettong by altering the productivity of its major food resources, and is plausibly a cause of the apparent decline of the Coane Range population (Bateman 2010; Bateman et al. 2012 a, b). 
  3. Small, relictual subpopulations (moderate): only Lamb Range subpopulations appear large enough to be self sustaining (Dennis 2001, 2012); it is not known whether small populations on Mt Windsor and Coane Range still persist.
  4. Habitat change due to changed fire regimes (moderate): past declines are thought to relate to changes in habitat structure and suitability for both the bettong and the fungi and grasses it consumes; changes were probably influenced by changed fire regimes (Bateman and Johnson 2011, Dennis 2012); small-scale, low-intensity fire has little effect, at least in habitats where physical cover (e.g. boulders) is available (Vernes 2000, Vernes and Pope 2001), but may be significant in other habitats, and especially in combination with Foxes and feral Cats.
  5. Competition from Pigs (Sus scrofa) (moderate): impact unclear: evidence of their impact is still scant but they known to consume (and cause reduction in abundance of) truffles and Cockatoo Grass tubers (A. Baker pers. comm).
  6. Habitat change due to livestock grazing (moderate): past declines are thought to relate to changes in habitat structure and suitability for both the bettong and the fungi it consumes; changes were probably influenced by grazing (Bateman and Johnson 2011; Dennis 2001, 2012).
  7. Habitat change due to logging (moderate): past declines are thought to relate to changes in habitat structure and suitability for both the bettong and the fungi it consumes; changes were probably influenced by logging (Bateman and Johnson 2011, Dennis 2012).
  8. Inappropriate land use (moderate):very little of the range of the Northern Bettong is in National Park, although much of it occurs in State Forest and/or in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, managed by the Department of Environment and Resource Management; State Forest is often managed as a multi-use area which can include timber extraction, water catchment protection, tourism and recreational camping; standard management practices and/or problems associated with these uses may be detrimental to northern bettongs (Dennis 2001); the Coane Range population is largely within the Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s Mount Zero – Taravale wildlife sanctuary, and is managed with the conservation of Northern Bettong as a specific objective.
  9. Predation by Red Foxes (potentially catastrophic, but currently not occurring): foxes are not established in the current range of B. tropica, but have occasionally been observed in area; foxes are considered to be the greatest future threat to the species (Dennis 2001, 2012) given their impact on related species.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The Northern Bettong is listed as a threatened species under Australian law. Part of its range occurs within the Lamb Range State Forest, Davies Creek National Park, and Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. A detailed recovery plan has been developed for the species within Queensland (Dennis 2001). It is listed on Appendix I of CITES.

Past conservation actions have been described by Dennis (2001) and included surveys, research into fire ecology including investigating the impact of varying fire regimes on Northern Bettong food resources (truffles and cockatoo grass) and a GPS tracking study investigating micro habitat use following prescribed burning, research into population genetics and mating systems, surveys of fox distribution and abundance and the partial development of a fox control plan.

Current management, monitoring and research includes cattle exclusion research investigating the recovery of/impact on resources (cockatoo grass) following exclusion of feral cattle, application of fire management a research program. Findings indicated application of landscape mosaic burn pattern in the early to mid dry season was most conducive to creating the species-diverse open structured ground layer preferred by the Northern Bettong. This regime is also most suitable for the survival and proliferation of cockatoo grass, a food resource essential to Bettongs in the late dry season when truffle availability is low

Conservation of the Northern Bettong is the responsibility of the Queensland Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing. Most of its habitat has now been incorporated into the protected area estate, both government and private (Australian Wildlife Conservancy), and is being managed for the bettong’s conservation by de-stocking, ceasing logging, managing fire and weeds and monitoring the vegetation and the bettong. Surveys of fox distribution and abundance have been initiated. A trial reintroduction was attempted near Ravenshoe in 2005-2006, but failed, and the captive colony from which the reintroduction was initiated no longer exists.

Citation: Burbidge, A.A. & Woinarski, J. 2016. Bettongia tropica. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T2787A21961037. . Downloaded on 26 March 2017.
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