Urban expansion and land clearing has led to increasing numbers of quenda (Isoodon obesulus fusciventer), also known as Southern Brown Bandicoots, visiting backyards in the Perth Hills. The urban environment provides quenda with access to food in addition to their natural diet which they dig from the ground, such as bugs, beetles, and fungi.
A recent survey of property owners in the Greater Perth Region conducted by Dr. Alison Hillman from Murdoch University and the EMRC’s Healthy Wildlife Reference Group, found that people are hand feeding quendas. Food offered includes vegetables, fresh and dried fruits, bread, rice, muesli, wholegrains, rolled oats, horse muesli, seeds, nuts, cheese, cooked meat bones and leftover table scraps. Quendas are also scavenging cat, poultry, pig and bird food. It is not surprising that Dr Hillman’s survey found that both male and female quenda in an urban environment weigh more than quenda trapped in bushland environment,
Of the 107 quenda trapped in an urban environment, 6.5% were obese, 47.7% were overweight, 43.9% were optimal weight and 1.9% were underweight. Of the 151 quenda trapped in bushland, none were obese, 17.9% were overweight, 73.5% were optimal weight, and 8.6% were underweight. This suggests that the additional food available to quenda in the urban environment is making them fatter than a quenda eating a natural diet.
According to the Community Quenda Survey 20122, additional food may also be allowing quenda populations to exist at higher densities in urban areas than in bushland. Dr Hillman advises that “higher densities may lead to increased parasite loads and contact with domestic animals can result in quendas acquiring domestic animal parasites that are not common in quenda populations, though this does not necessarily result in ill-health for either species. Feeding raw meat can be a source of the parasitic protozoan Toxoplasma gondii and providing it to any wildlife is discouraged.”
The Department of Parks and Wildlife recommends that people do not feed wildlife and point out that an artificial diet can be detrimental to their health and can impact on their ability to breed. Higher encounters between quenda, which are normally solitary, can also lead to aggression between the animals causing stress and injuries.
There are simple actions you can take to keep urban quenda healthy. Ensure there is plenty of low lying, dense native vegetation on your property to provide shelter and places to forage safely for the food they eat naturally. Artificial feeding of wildlife is strongly discouraged, however, if you must feed quenda use mealworms and keep the portions very small. Also, vary the locations in which the quenda are fed, to avoid patterns of quenda aggregation for predators to recognise and to encourage their independence. Never hand feed a quenda.
Provide a clean water source, particularly over summer. If you have a pool use a pool cover or provide a way for the quenda to get out if they fall in, such as a stone on a pool step to swim to and use to get out.
Poison management is also a consideration. It’s best to completely avoid using rat and snail baits, as these are both substantial causes of death of quenda in urban areas. Rats and mice look for food, shelter and breeding sites. By tidying up and removing the things they need like long grass, untidy sheds and accessible pet food, they’ll move on to search elsewhere. If baits must be used, use iron EDTA snail bait, and ideally, place baits in areas at least one metre off the ground and in cages that allow access for snails but not quenda.
Our own health and the health of wildlife and pets are inextricably linked. Studies have found that interaction with animals can have multiple positive effects on human health and your quality of life3. Make your backyard healthier for quenda and enjoy seeing them on your property.
1 Hillman A,B and R. C. Andrew Thompson (2015), Interactions between humans and urban-adapted marsupials on private properties in the greater Perth region, School of Veterinary and Life Sciences, Murdoch University
2 Howard K.H., Barrett G., Ramalho C.E., Friend J.A., Boyland R.J.I., Hudson J. and Wilson B. (2014). Community Quenda Survey 2012. Report prepared by WWF-Australia and the Department of Parks and Wildlife, Western Australia. WWFAustralia, Perth, WA.
3 Deakin University, (2008) Healthy parks, healthy people: The health benefits of contact with nature in a park context. A review of relevant literature 2nd edition