This attractive little Western Australian marsupial is one of the world’s rarest mammals, thought extinct until a chance rediscovery.
The Dibbler (Parantechinus apicalis) was once found in near-coastal areas across the south-west corner of Australia, from Shark Bay south-east to Esperance. Much of the Dibbler’s original range was cleared for farming early in the European settlement of Western Australia and the remaining areas (too rugged or nutrient-poor farming) are susceptible to wildfires which wipe out the resident population/s of small animals. Foxes, cats, rats and other introduced predators and competitors also threaten the Dibbler’s survival.
In 1996, the species was classified as Endangered on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species. Today, natural populations of Dibblers can be found only in the south-west of Western Australia (coastal habitats of Fitzgerald River National Park along the south coast) and on Boullanger and Whitlock Islands off the west coast near Jurien Bay about 200 km north of Perth.
Perth Zoo is a member of the Dibbler Recovery Team led by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA). As part of its Native Species Breeding Program, the Zoo breeds Dibblers for release into suitable protected habitat and studies their reproductive biology and behaviour.
Breeding for Release
Perth Zoo achieved the first successful breeding of the Dibbler in 1997. Twenty-six of these were released on Escape Island in 1998. This was a secure site, free from introduced predators and house mice, and, due to its relative inaccessibility, also free from other risks (fire, pets) associated with high visitation by people.
A further 62 animals bred at Perth Zoo were released between 1999 and 2001. An indication of the success of the translocation was the trapping of 72 individuals in October 2000 for monitoring. Of these, 18 were translocated animals and 40 were born on the island.
Other release sites for Dibblers have included Peniup Nature Reserve (2001 – 2014), Whiteman Park (2014-2015), Stirling Range National Park (2004 – 2007), Waychinicup National Park (2010 - 2013) and Gunton Island (2015 to present).
As part of the Return to 1616 project, in recent years, populations of Dibblers have been released into safe habitat at Dirk Hartog Island. More than 93 individuals have breen released onto Dirk Hartog island and while the animals can be difficult to monitor, there is evidence that released dibblers are sucessfully breeding.
Partners and Supporters
The Dibbler breed-for-release program is run by Perth Zoo in partnership with DBCA and the Dibbler Recovery Team.