If you’ve never heard of an eastern bettong, that makes sense, because this extremely cute marsupial hasn’t been seen around Sydney for more than 100 years. A tiny hopping rat kangaroo, the bettong looks a little like a bandicoot merged with a bush mouse, and there hasn't been a record sighting of it in its native habitat in western Sydney since 1906.
But now, that’s changed.
National Parks and Wildlife have just officially released a solitary eastern bettong into Yiraaldiya National Park. Yiraaldiya is a very special place, with it being the only protected, feral animal free park in the Greater Sydney region. Located north east of Penrith, it is a vital space that conservationists are using to nurture endangered animals back from the brink of extinction, a move that’s incredibly important given the fact that Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate in the world.
With conservationists planning to reintroduce 30 locally extinct native species here in the coming future, Yiraaldiya is one of our last chances when it comes to stopping the tide of native animal extinction both in Sydney, and across the nation. Free from cats, dogs and human interference, this place is an oasis for vulnerable animals trying to come slowly back to life.
All of this makes it the perfect landing pad for the eastern bettong, a creature known as an ‘ecosystem engineer’, with its digging pivotal to keeping ecosystems healthy and thriving through refreshing the soil and helping seeds to germinate. Bettongs began dying out in Sydney and across mainland Australia in the ‘20s, but now a number of them have been reintroduced into their historical stomping grounds in NSW, with the brush-tailed bettong jumping back into the Pilliga in north western NSW for the first time in 100 years in 2022.
We can expect to see the eastern quoll, long nosed bandicoot and New Holland mouse also all joining this eastern bettong in Yiraaldiya in the coming months. Until then, we’ll be cheering this brave little marsupial on.
There’s always hope.