The Eastern bettong is a small macropod (nicknamed rat-kangaroo) that was once widespread on the eastern part of mainland Australia. The Eastern bettong is now extinct on the mainland and can only found in the wild in Tasmania. This species became locally extinct on the mainland around 100 years ago as a result of land clearing and predation from introduced predators, such as foxes and cats.
The Eastern bettong is commonly known as an ecosystem engineer, playing a vital role in ecosystem health and function of woodlands. Bettongs are fungivores and dig for food, which is found under the ground. Whilst foraging for their food, bettongs assist with nutrient exchange between soil and plants. Through the consumption of fungi it leads to the spread of fungal spores leading to a healthier ecosystem. The diggings created by bettongs are unique in shape and assist with the aeration of soil and create ideal conical shaped holes for seed germination. Many digging marsupials, such as the Eastern bettong, have been lost from the mainland and as a result we are seeing the negative affect it is having on woodland health.
In 2011, Tidbinbilla acquired a number of Eastern bettongs from the Tasmanian wild. These individuals were the first of the species on the mainland in 100 years. Half of these bettongs were then reintroduced into Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary, a predator free fenced reserve in the north of the ACT.
Tidbinbilla has played a vital role in the Eastern bettong breeding program on the mainland, through the maintenance genetic diversity within the population, as well as ensuring an insurance population. Tidbinbilla also plays a critical role in research and education about the species. The Conservation Wildlife team undertake seasonal trapping and monitoring of the species, collecting data on their health and reproductive status.
Tidbinbilla has partnerships with Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary, the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industry, Parks, Water and the Environment (DPIPWE), the Australian National University and CSIRO with the mission to increase bettong numbers and reintroduce populations back onto the mainland.