Bettongia gaimardi 

Scope: Global

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Diprotodontia Potoroidae

Scientific Name: Bettongia gaimardi
Species Authority: (Desmarest, 1822)
Common Name(s):
English Tasmanian Bettong, Tasmanian Rat Kangaroo, Southern Bettong, Eastern Bettong, Gaimard’s Bettong
French Kangourou-rat de Gaimard, Kangourou-rat de Tasmanie
Spanish Canguro-rata de Tasmania
Kangurus gaimardi Desmarest, 1822

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-02-11
Assessor(s): Burbidge, A.A., Woinarski, J. & Johnson, C.N.
Reviewer(s): Hawkins, C.
Contributor(s): Johnson, C.N., Johnson, K., Menkhorst, P. & Pauza, M.

The Eastern Bettong is currently quite widespread and locally abundant in Tasmania, but with a fragmented distribution. It does not meet the criteria for a classification of Vulnerable, but its extent of occurrence is close to the threshold at which it would be considered Vulnerable under criterion B1 if there was also evidence for continuing decline in occurrence, occupancy, habitat quality or abundance. It is therefore possible that increases in predation or declines in habitat quality in the near future could move the species into the Vulnerable category. These changes are possible, given that (i) the feral Cat is widespread in the habitat of the Eastern Bettong, and studies on a closely related species, the Woylie (Marlow et al. 2015) show that increases in the cat population could have major impacts, and (ii) intensification of agriculture in parts of eastern Tasmania could result in increased fragmentation and declines in quality of habitat. Similarly, if the Red Fox were to become established in Tasmania this could be expected to have a major impact on the Eastern Bettong, given the evidence that Red Fox predation caused the extinction of the Eastern Bettong from mainland Australia (Short 1998; Johnson 2006). 

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Eastern Bettong formerly occurred throughout much of mainland south-eastern Australia from south-eastern Queensland to south-eastern South Australia, but is now extinct on mainland Australia. It remains widespread in eastern Tasmania from sea level up to 1000 m, however its distribution there is fragmented by land clearing, especially in the midlands of Tasmania. It occurs naturally on Bruny Island (367 km2; Driessen et al. 2010) and was introduced to Maria Island (104 km2) in 1971. Rounsevell et al. (1991) recorded it in 33% of 10 km x 10 km grids in Tasmania, all in the eastern half of the State. In 2011 some Tasmanian Bettongs were brought from Tasmania to establish a captive-breeding colony in Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, Australian Capital Territory. In May 2012, animals were translocated from this colony to Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary, ACT, a fenced mainland island of c. 400 ha of Yellow Box Eucalyptus melliodora – Blakely’s Red Gum E. blakelyi grassy woodland. This enclosed population has flourished, and it is hoped that it will be possible to use it as a source of animals to be released into nearby unfenced areas subject to control of introduced predators (A. Manning pers. comm. 2015).
Countries occurrence:
Australia (New South Wales - Regionally Extinct, Queensland - Regionally Extinct, South Australia - Regionally Extinct, Tasmania, Victoria - Regionally Extinct)
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:5000Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:27100
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Continuing decline in number of locations:No
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Upper elevation limit (metres):1000
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


In Tasmania, this species is moderately common in suitable habitat but has been affected by past clearing of dry sclerophyll forest and woodland, especially in the midlands of Tasmania. Little of its habitat is protected within reserves and the highest densities occur on private land (DPIPWE 2012). It is sensitive to fragmentation of its habitat. Mammal spotlighting surveys carried out by the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment across Tasmania only detect low numbers of bettongs which have fluctuated widely over the past decade. Recent surveys using camera trapping show that in the midlands bettongs occur only in forest patches larger than approximately 50 ha (R. Gardiner pers. comm. 2015). Abundance has been observed to fluctuate widely within areas of stable habitat, for reasons that are not understood (K. Proft pers. comm. 2015). On the other hand, Tasmanian bettongs sometimes occur at high abundance in plantation forests (M. Pauza pers. comm. 2012). One documented case shows a local population decline in response to increased activity of feral cats (Fancourt 2014), but more extensive surveys have not provided evidence for a general recent impact of cats on abundance (R. Gardiner and R. Hamer pers. comm. 2015). 

Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:20000-50000Continuing decline of mature individuals:No
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

Mainland animals apparently inhabited open forest with a grassy understorey (Seebeck 1995). In Tasmania, the species occurs in eucalypt and casuarina forests and woodlands with grassy or heath ground cover. During the daytime the animals take refuge in nests built under a fallen limb or among short bushes or tussocks, and sited in a shallow depression dug by the animal. The nests are spherical structures with a side entrance. They are well camouflaged and constructed using nesting material collected by the animal, and transported in bundles held in the prehensile tail. The outer wall of the nest is built with coarse grass and twigs, and the resting chamber is given an inner lining of softer grasses or fibres stripped from the bark of stringybark trees. The diet is mainly hypogeal fungi but also includes seeds, tubers and bulbs (Johnson 1994). Home range is 65-135 ha and an individual can travel up to 1.5 km between its nest and feeding areas (Rose and Rose 1998; Rose and Johnson 2008).

The eastern bettong provides important ecosystem services. Like other bettongs, and potoroos, it digs for its food, creating many small foraging pits (Fleming et al 2014). These create microtopographic variation that promotes regeneration of some plants, and digging contributes to loosening and turnover of soil, which improves soil condition and water infiltration and promotes the breakdown of organic matter. Most of the fungi eaten by the Eastern Bettong are mycorrhiza-forming species. As a result of feeding on their fruiting bodies, the Eastern Bettong disperses the spores of these fungi in its faeces. This is probably a crucial factor in the maintenance of ectomycorrhizal symbiosis in the dry forests inhabited by the Eastern Bettong. This in turn helps maintain the productivity and diversity of plant communities (Johnson 1996).

The Eastern Bettong breeds throughout the year. Individuals reach sexual maturity within their first year, and females can produce up to three young per year.

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 Eastern Bettong is potentially threatened by predation from the Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) and feral Cat (Felis catus). Historically, the Red Fox has not occurred in Tasmania, but if it were to become established in Tasmania this could be expected to have a major impact on the Eastern Bettong, given the evidence that predation by the Red Fox caused the species' extinction from mainland Australia (Short 1998; Johnson 2006). There is evidence of a recent incursion of the Red Fox, possibly as a result of a deliberate introduction (Sarre et al. 2013). This triggered an eradication program ( There have been no definite records of foxes in Tasmania since 2011 ( Analysis of the pattern of fox records through time suggests the population may now be extinct (Caley et al. 2015). The Red Fox remains a potential threat to the Tasmanian Bettong.

Eastern Bettongs are threatened by predation by feral domestic Cats (Fancourt 2014). There is some evidence that the abundance or activity of feral Cats has increased in Tasmania following the decline of the Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) (Hollings et al. 2013), but the magnitude of this change is still unclear. Recent surveys show that Eastern Bettongs remain abundant in areas where feral cats are present, provided that habitat patches are sufficiently large (R. Gardiner pers. comm. 2015). A very similar species, the Woylie or Brush-tailed Bettong Bettongia penicillata, has recently suffered major declines in south western Western Australia as a result of predation by feral Cats (Marlow et al. 2015). In that case, predation by feral Cats increased following suppression of Red Fox populations by poison baiting, which probably allowed population growth in feral Cats. If the abundance or activity of feral Cats were to increase in a similar way in Tasmania, it is possible that mortality of Eastern Bettongs would increase substantially and populations could decline. It is also possible that feral Cats threaten Eastern Bettongs by transmitting the disease toxoplasmosis, but the evidence from Western Australia suggests that direct predation is likely to be more significant (Marlow et al. 2015).

The sensitivity of the Eastern Bettong to fragmentation of its dry forest and woodland habitat also suggests that further loss of habitat extent could lead to localized extinctions. Possibly, threats from fragmentation (and associated loss of habitat quality) and predation could interact, such that exposure of Eastern Bettongs to feral Cats is higher where habitat has been reduced or degraded, and cats also increase in abundance as a result of disturbances associated with habitat fragmentation. This suggests that even quite small changes in habitat or Cat abundance could be amplified to produce significant population declines.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is listed on Appendix I of CITES. It is present in some protected areas. Recommended conservation actions are:
  • maintain surveillance for Red Foxes in Tasmania, and implant rapid response to known or suspected incursions
  • establish suitable fire regimes to maintain ecological health of dry forest and woodland habitats in Tasmania
  • consider translocation to previously-inhabited islands and further sites on mainland Australia
  • monitor at selected sites, and specifically investigate activity and current and potential impacts of feral cats

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.4. Forest - Temperate
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
3. Species management -> 3.2. Species recovery
3. Species management -> 3.3. Species re-introduction -> 3.3.1. Reintroduction
4. Education & awareness -> 4.3. Awareness & communications
5. Law & policy -> 5.1. Legislation -> 5.1.2. National level
5. Law & policy -> 5.1. Legislation -> 5.1.3. Sub-national level

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Action Recovery plan:No
  Systematic monitoring scheme:Yes
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over part of range
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
  Percentage of population protected by PAs (0-100):1-10
  Area based regional management plan:No
  Invasive species control or prevention:Yes
In-Place Species Management
  Successfully reintroduced or introduced beningly:No
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:No
In-Place Education
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.3. Agro-industry farming
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Slow, Significant Declines ⇒ Impact score:Low Impact: 5 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.3. Livestock farming & ranching -> 2.3.3. Agro-industry grazing, ranching or farming
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Rapid Declines ⇒ Impact score:Medium Impact: 6 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases -> 8.1.2. Named species [ Vulpes vulpes ]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Very Rapid Declines ⇒ Impact score:Medium Impact: 7 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases -> 8.1.2. Named species [ Felis catus ]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Rapid Declines ⇒ Impact score:Medium Impact: 6 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
2. Conservation Planning -> 2.1. Species Action/Recovery Plan
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.4. Habitat trends

Bibliography [top]

Caley, P., Ramsey, D. S. L., Barry, S. C. 2015. Inferring the Distribution and Demography of an Invasive Species from Sighting Data: The Red Fox Incursion into Tasmania. PLoS One 10(1): e0116631.

Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment. 2012. Tasmanian bettong. Available at: (Accessed: 18 March 2012).

Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment. 2013. Latest physical evidence of foxes in Tasmania. Available at: (Accessed: 7 February 2013).

Driessen, M. M., Carlyon, K., Gales, R., Mooney, N., Pauza, M., Visoiu, M., and Wise, P. 2010. Terrestrial mammals of a sheep grazing property on Bruny island, Tasmania. and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 145: 51-64.

Fancourt, B. A. 2014. Rapid decline in detections of the Tasmanian bettong (Bettongia gaimardi) following local incursion of feral cats (Falis catus). Australian Mammalogy 36: 247-253.

Fleming, P. A., Anderson, H., Prendergast, A. S., Bretz, M. R., Valentine, L. E. and Hardey, G. E. StJ. 2014. Is the loss of Australian digging mammals contributing to a deterioration in ecosystem function? Mammal Review 44: 94-108.

Hollings, T., Jones, M. E., Hocking, G., Mooney, N., and McCallum, H. 2013. Ecosystem impacts of disease induced apex predator decline: The Tasmanian devil and devil facial tumour disease (DFTD). Conservation Biology 28(1): 63-75.

IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-1. Available at: (Accessed: 30 June 2016).

Johnson, C., 2006. Australia’s mammal extinctions; a 50,000 year history. Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne.

Johnson, C. N. 1994. Nutritional ecology of a mycophagous marsupial in relation to production of hypogeous fungi. Ecology 75: 2015-2021.

Johnson, C. N. 1996. Interactions between mammals and ectomycorrhizal fungi. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 11: 503-507.

Marlow, N. J., Thomas, N. D., Williams, A. A. E., Macmahon, B., Lawson, J., Hitchen, Y., Angus, J., Berry, Ol. 2015. Cats (Felis catus) are more abundant and are the dominant predator of woylies (Bettongia penicillata) after sustained fox (Vulpes vulpes) control. Australian Journal of Zoology 63: 18-27.

Pauza, M. D. 2010. Monitoring of at-risk mammal species due to the emerging fox threat in Tasmania : Project Plan. Invasive Species Branch, Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment.

Rose, R. W. and Johnson, K. A. 2008. Tasmanian Bettong, Bettongia gaimardi. In: S. Van Dyck and R. Strahan (eds), The mammals of Australia. Third Edition, pp. 287-288. Reed New Holland, Sydney, Australia.

Rose, R. W., and Rose, R. K. 1998. The Tasmanian Bettong Bettongia gaimardi. Mammalian Species No. 584. Available at: (Accessed: 17 May 2012).

Rounsevell, D. E., Taylor, R. J. and Hocking, G. J. 1991. Distribution records of native terrestrial mammals in Tasmania. Wildlife Research 18: 699-717.

Sarre, S. D., MacDonald, A. J., Barclay, C., Saunders, G. R., and Ramsey, D. S. L. 2013. Foxes are now widespread in Tasmania: DNA detection defines the distribution of this rare but invasive carnivore. Journal of Applied Ecology 50: 459-468.

Seebeck, J. H. 1995. Tasmanian Bettong. In: P. W. Menkhorst (ed.), The mammals of Victoria, pp. 126-127. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Short, J. 1998. The extinction of rat-kangaroos (Marsupialia: Potoroidae) in New South Wales, Australia. Biological Conservation 86: 365-377.

Short, J., Kinnear, J. E., and Robley, A. 2002. Surplus killing by introduced predators in Australia—evidence for ineffective anti-predator adaptations in native prey species? Biological Conservation 103: 283-301.

Citation: Burbidge, A.A., Woinarski, J. & Johnson, C.N. 2016. Bettongia gaimardi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T2783A21960911. . Downloaded on 27 October 2016.
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