Native rodent reappears after 30-year absence

Glenn CordingleyBroome Advertiser
A black-footed tree-rat in the Northern Territory.
Camera IconA black-footed tree-rat in the Northern Territory. Credit: Hugh Davies.

A native rodent that has not been seen in the Kimberley for 30 years has been rediscovered.

Researchers caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a black-footed tree-rat during regular mammal monitoring at Bachsten Creek in the remote north-west Kimberley last year.

Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) ecologist Ben Corey said remote field cameras deployed over the wet season confirmed the existence of the species once the cameras were collected after eight months in the field.

“Many species, such as the endangered northern quoll and golden-backed tree-rat, as well as sugar gliders and scaly-tailed possums were recorded,” Mr Corey said.

“However, the biggest surprise was photographic evidence of the black-footed tree-rat – the first in 30 years.

“It has not been seen in the Kimberley since 1987, despite considerable survey efforts during this period.”

A black-footed tree-rat photograpgh taken by remote field cameras in the Kimberley.
Camera IconA black-footed tree-rat photograpgh taken by remote field cameras in the Kimberley. Credit: Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

The black-footed tree-rat is a large tree dwelling rodent with distinctive black feet and a long black and white tail.

Mr Corey said another unexpected record of the species came from the identification of hair in a python scat, which was found in a nest box at one of the monitoring sites.

“This suggests black-footed tree-rats are still present in the Kimberley, although very elusive.”

The north Kimberley is recognised as a stronghold for species that are now extinct across the northern regions of Australia.

Each year, researchers from the department survey mammals in more than 100 locations across the north-Kimberley.

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