Banjo the bandicoot – free at last!

The last episode in the Banjo saga… for now…

The bandicoot runs free!

The bandicoot runs free!

25/02/2014

Once again, this article was thieved from the DPIPWE internet:

Watch out world, Banjo is coming! After four months of dedicated bandicoot rehabilitation by Mandy Smith from the Invasive Species Branch, Banjo reached her release weight in February and has been set loose on an unsuspecting Tasmanian landscape. So does the story have a happy ending…let’s just kill the suspense; yes it does!

Weighing in at over 450g, Banjo had turned into quite the little teenage rebel for Mandy – answering back, staying out past curfew, not eating the meals prepared for her. Mandy, a patient parent, did what many parents do at this time – she built Banjo a custom built tee-pee shaped teenage hideaway in the backyard (all parents do that, right?). This allowed Banjo to sleep out under the stars and the enclosure had no ground mesh so she could free-range and dig in the lawn for corby grubs, slaters and beetles. Great aeration for the lawn!

Caring became virtually a full-time job for Mandy as she helped Banjo adjust to her growing body and new environment. At first, the size of the enclosure seemed to daunt Banjo but Mandy sat in it with her, reading her notes on how to live a healthy bandicoot lifestyle and teaching her to dig. With this support, Banjo soon conquered her agoraphobia and was becoming quite bold.

Approaching the time of her release, Banjo had a set-back as she was assessed  by an experienced wildlife carer as ‘not quite competent’. This was due to her reluctance to give up her ‘blankie’ – a green striped towel that she slept in day and night. She had also developed a bit of a milk addiction.  After doing some intense therapy (read ‘going cold turkey’) she was again assessed and deemed ready for release. A few days later, a wildlife carer brought a pet carrier for Mandy to prepare for Banjo’s departure.  The carrier was disinfected, washed and lined with grasses as her new bed.  Unfortunately, Banjo got a whiff of the previous tenant – a  quoll – and went berserk!

She escaped her enclosure and was chased around Mandy’s yard by a cat.  Mandy managed to grab Banjo and, despite her second tangle with cats, she still tried every which way to escape her enclosure. After consulting with the wildlife carer, Banjo’s release was re-scheduled. Again.

It’s amazing to think that while Banjo had never met a quoll in her life she immediately knew that the scent meant trouble! According to Dr Marissa Parrott (Reproductive Biologist for Zoos Victoria) these experiences are beneficial to a hand-raised bandicoot; both the smell of the quoll and the cat chase would have kicked her survival instincts into gear.  Although it was a bit frightening for her (and for Mandy!), it made Banjo even better prepared for release.

Banjo was eventually taken by an experienced wildlife carer to a private property at Beulah (near Sheffield) where the property was fenced to keep the smaller critters in and the feral cats out (regular cat patrols assist with this). Mandy wasn’t permitted to witness the release (apparently some carers get too emotional for the landowner to cope with) but the carer said Banjo was super keen to get out and back into the wild.

The day of freedom finally arrived and Banjo was given a soft release, which means she was kept in an enclosure for about two days before the door was opened for her to make her own way out into the wilds of Beulah.  Mandy has since been told that Banjo has settled down and been seen twice near the enclosure with a new bandicoot family (about eight in the tribe). She may also have found love and seems to have a young male suitor following her around.  Banjo will be close to sexual maturity soon, which worries Mandy a bit as she never had the chance to have ‘The Talk’ with her.  But as with everything else in her life, Mandy is sure Banjo’s instincts will kick in and steer her in the right direction.

Mandy continues to get updates from  the property owner (who is a big fan of bandicoots) and is now ear-marked as a successful bandicoot carer by Wildcare – meaning more homeless little ‘coots’ may be headed her way for rehabilitation in the future. Lucky Mandy!

 

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