University of Western Australia: Numbat population in Upper Warren bigger than previously estimated

New research from The University of Western Australia has discovered the numbat population in the Upper Warren, about 300km south of Perth, is a lot bigger than previously thought.

PhD candidate Sian Thorn, from UWA’s School of Biological Sciences, in collaboration with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions and with funding from the World Wide Fund for Nature authored Remote sensor camera traps provide the first density estimate for the largest natural population of the numbats published in CSIRO Publishing.

The Upper Warren and Dryandra woodland are the only two areas to have natural numbat populations, outside of these areas there are several reintroduced and translocated populations within and outside predator proof enclosures.

Previously it was estimated the areas had a combined population of 1300 with 500 of the marsupials in the Upper Warren.

Using photos provided by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, taken from motion-sensor cameras installed in the Upper Warren, researchers found the numbats could be individually identified using their unique stripe patterns.

“Camera traps have the advantage of being able to provide near continuous observations without the need for human presence, which means sample sizes and chances of detection can often be increased with reduced physical effort in monitoring,” Ms Thorn said.

“We used this process to model the density of the population and when this was applied to occupancy estimates for the region, it suggests there is a population of about 1900 animals.”

The findings could have significant consequences for the conservation and management of the species and its habitat.

“The relatively large population size in the Upper Warren raises the possibility of it being a viable source population for future numbat translocations,” Ms Thorn said.

“Translocation from both wild and captive populations has proven to be a valuable tool in the conservation of this species, increasing both total population estimates and the number of self-sustaining populations.”