#ThreatenedSpecies of the Week: The Chuditch

Dasyurus geoffroii, or the Chuditch, is the largest carnivorous marsupial in Western Australia. At maturity, it is about the size of a small domestic cat, males weighing an average of 1.3kg and females an average of 0.9kg.

The chuditch is distinguishable from other mammals within its present range by its white spotted brown pelage, large rounded ears, pointed muzzle, large dark eyes and a non-hopping gait. The tail is about three quarters of the head and body length, and has a black ‘brush’ over the dorsal surface of the distal portion.

The Chuditch
The Chuditch. Picture: Department of Parks and Wildlife

The spotted pattern of the Chuditch’s coat helps to break up its outline in the moonlight, protecting it from predators and masking its movements through woodland.

Unfortunately this little friend is listed as Vulnerable under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950.

The main identified threats to the chuditch are land clearing (particularly of riparian vegetation), removal of suitable den logs and den sites from chuditch habitat, predation by, and competition from, foxes and feral cats; as well as deliberate and accidental mortality from poisoning, trapping, illegal shooting, and road kills.

Chuditch are nocturnal species, foraging primarily on the ground and at night. They may climb trees to obtain prey or to escape from predators. In the forest, insects and other large invertebrates comprise the bulk of their diet, though some mammals, birds and lizards are also included.

In the arid zone, the diet of chuditch includes live mammals, carrion, lizards, frogs and invertebrates.

The Chuditch is known only from Western Australia where it predominantly occurs in Jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) forest. Occasional records are obtained from the Wheatbelt and Goldfields where it persists in very low numbers. The species has been translocated to Lane Poole Conservation Park, Julimar Forest, Lake Magenta Nature Reserve, Cape Arid National Park, Mount Lindsay National Park and Kalbarri National Park. There is recent evidence of a return of the species to Walyunga National Park, outer metropolitan areas of Perth and the Swan Coastal Plain.

Perth Zoo has been involved in a very successful breeding program with the Department of Parks and Wildlife, which has resulted in the release of five populations of captive-bred Chuditch into feral-proofed environments in Western Australia. This program was so successful that the status of the Chuditch has been downlisted from endangered to vulnerable.

Information Source: Government of Australia, Department of Environment and Department of Parks and Wildlife Western Australia.

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