Image Source: Stock.Xchng. By: Lireyes.

This week’s Creature Feature is about a marsupial that, although may be a symbol of Western Australia, it may not be so well-known to the rest of the world.

The Numbat, or Banded Ant Eater, is the only member of the Myrmecobiidae family. This furry little creature ranges between 13 and 18 inches (35-45 cm) in length, comes in a variety of colors (ranging from grey to reddish-brown and with a lighter underside) and can be recognized by its tail and stripes. Numbats love to feast on termites—in fact, one adult Numbat can eat up to 20,000 termites every day! Who needs exterminators when you have Numbats around?

These guys (and girls) are pretty solitary and territorial when they reach adulthood and will defend their space (up to 370 acres or 1.5 km) from other Numbats of the same gender. However, male and female territories tend to become mixed together and needless to say, breeding is inevitable.

Numbats were once found throughout southern Australia, but European colonization quickly changed that. Thanks to the intentional release of the European Red Fox, Numbat populations were completely destroyed in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, and the Northern Territory. This all happened in the 19th century, but by the late 1970s the entire Numbat population was reduced to less than 1,000 remaining members. In addition to the introduction of the European Red Fox, raptor and rabbits (yes, rabbits) also pose continuing threats to the Numbat, as well as frequent and uncontrolled wildfires.

Today, the remaining Numbats can be mostly found in Dryandra and Perup. The Dryandra population dropped from approximately 600 in 1992 to about 50 today, while the Perup population has 500-600 reintroduced to reserve areas. Either way, both populations are estimated to have declined by more than 20% in the last decade—and they are still on the decline. This simply should not be.

To find out more about the Numbat and how you can help, check out these sites:

Project Numbat
Department of Environment and Conservation
WildSpeak
Wildlife Preservation Society of Australia
Australian Fauna
Australian Animals
Arkive
Sydney Wildlife World

By Heidi Marshall