Looking after Banjo the bandicoot – an article from the archives

This article is lifted from our intranet, at the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment, from October last year, for broader public enjoyment.

Baby banjo
18/10/2013

Mandy Smith from the Invasive Species Branch received a reminder of the importance of her work this week when she became the adopted parent of a baby bandicoot orphaned after an attack by a friend’s pet cat.

Little Banjo, as he is now known, was lucky to survive with only a few scratches on his back but his parents and siblings weren’t so lucky. The incident is a reminder of the threat that domestic cats pose to the wildlife in our suburbs.

Eastern barred bandicoots are small, nocturnal Australian marsupials that were once common in south-eastern Australia but have been driven to the brink of extinction on the mainland by introduced predators including foxes and feral cats. Tasmania is now the last stronghold for the species.

The natural habitat of Eastern barred bandicoots is grassland and grassy woodland but land clearing has meant that bandicoots have had to adapt and shift into urban areas to survive. They are now found in urban backyards (their presence being given away by cone-shaped feeding holes) and nearby bushland reserves.

However, life in the suburbs can be dangerous and bandicoots are exposed to a range of threats including cars, brush-cutters, mowers, dogs and (as in the case of Banjo’s family) domestic cats.

Banjo’s ordeal is a reminder that we should all be helping to look after the native animals around our suburbs and take responsibility to manage any impacts our domestic pets may be having. There are two simple things that cat owners can do:

  • don’t let your cat roam off your property, have an outdoor cat run or keep it indoors
  • make sure you confine your cat at night.

These two simple actions will that will help protect both your cat’s safety and our native wildlife from harm.

If you find an injured or sick wildlife, please call DPIPWE’s Injured and Orphaned Wildlife Program on 6233 6556 or Bonorong’s support line for injured and orphaned wildlife on 6268 1184 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).

Mandy is currently organising her Wildlife Care Volunteer permit to make official her role as Banjo’s rehabilitator.

Hungry baby bandicute!

 

Banjo the bandicoot runs free!

Image

Banjo the bandicoot runs free!

This week, Banjo, our Invasive Species Branch’s unofficial mascot, was successfully released to the wild.

She was rescued from a feral cat, who killed her mother, and was lucky enough to be cared for by Mandy Smith, of  Launceston’s ISB section, who nursed her back to health. Banjo is an eastern barred bandicoot (Perameles gunnii), a species which is listed as endangered at a national level here in Australia – Tasmania is their stronghold.

Over the next few days, I’ll be reposting the story of her rescue, her troubled youth, rebellious teenage-hood, and eventual graduation into a fully-fledged grown-up bandicute!

Day one: Chicken boot camp

After much consideration (read: procrastination), at home chicken training has commenced!

Chicken Little is more interested in grooming, but Precious appears alert and ready for duty!

Chicken Little is more interested in grooming, but Precious appears alert and ready for duty!

Chickens Little, Precious and Squeak have been chosen from the mob for intensive training in important skills like counter-pecking, card reading and dragon-slaying.  Eventually, I hope to get their skills to a level where they will be able to support me in my dotage, working the casinos up and down the east coast.

It’s been hot today – too hot for Tasmanians, and possibly also for little black chickens.  Despite adverse conditions, and against all notions of common-sense, we decided to persevere.

The mountains of paper detritus teetering on our lounge room table were swept aside to make way for an old sheet, folded in four, which we draped across the tabletop.   The chosen chickens, who’d been busily vandalising the veggie patch, were captured, and brought inside to sit in a holding cage for a bit.   Squeak, who’d been panting in the heat all day, continued to do so, despite there being a full bowl of cold water directly in front of her.  Little engaged in a small act of chicken protest, sitting down on the floor of the cage and refusing to get up again.  Precious squawked irritably at the slightest provocation.  So did my partner.

I attempted to boost morale.  “Come on guys!  This is going to be fun!”

We’d decided to get the chickens out one by one.  Precious, seeming most at ease, was first on the table.  She froze, pupils dilated, and just stared at us.  I tried her on the black sunflower seeds I’d dropped in the metal measuring “treat” cup, and she attacked them with vigour.  However, she showed no signs of wanting to move anything from the neck down.

“Put her back in the cage.  Next!”

Next was Little.  Underneath her slick black plumage, Little was awash with dirt.  She’d been plucked from her blissful dustbath in my newly planted flower bed, and hadn’t had a chance to freshen up.  She shook herself a little, throwing soil everywhere, then sat down.  Black sunflower seeds would not rouse her.  She was implacable.

“Righto.  Get Squeak.”

Squeak was no better than her predecessors.  We decided to get them all out at once, and scatter a few seeds about, to make them feel comfortable.

This level of freak-out was hardly surprising.  The chickens only tend to come inside when we’ve left a door open, or occasionally to clean the kitchen floor, and they were certainly unused to sitting on the lounge room table.  Also, even in the house, it was still quite hot, and they like heat about as much as the average Tasmanian. And if that weren’t enough, there were two predator animals, with our beady eyes on the front, rather than the sides, of our heads, staring at them in what was probably an unnerving  fashion.

We decided just to leave them to hang out on the table for a while, pecking at the seeds in the treat cup, and getting used to the general household ambience.  Next time, they won’t get off so lightly.

I did a course with world renowned dog trainer Terry Ryan learning how to train chickens last year – to read details of my chicken whispering experiences at her training camps, click here.