Nature conservation

Threatened species

Greater Stick-nest Rat - profile

Indicative distribution


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known
predicted
The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Leporillus conditor
Conservation status in NSW: Presumed Extinct
Commonwealth status: Vulnerable
Profile last updated: 05 Aug 2019

Description

The Greater Stick-nest Rat, or "Wopilkara" as it was also known, is a fluffy yellow-brown to grey rodent with a creamy underbelly, blunt snout, a large head with large eyes and rounded ears. The Wopilkara reaches a head-body length of 17-26 cm and a body-weight of 180-450 g. The tail is usually shorter than the head and body (average 17 cm) and has a slight terminal brush of hairs. The rat rests in a hunched posture, similar to a rabbit.

They inhabited much of the semi-arid and southern arid zone of Australia and were named after the conspicuous stick-nests they built, and lived in.

Since European settlement this species was severely affected by the overgrazing of their preferred habitat. A single population of Greater Stick-nest Rats survived on the Franklin Islands, off the coast of Ceduna, South Australia. The Lesser Stick-nest Rat is now presumed extinct.

Distribution

The Greater Stick-nest Rat were once found through much of arid and semi-arid Australia, from Shark Bay to western New South Wales and north-western Victoria.

By the 1930s Greater Stick-nest Rats were extinct on the mainland. A small population survived only on East and West Franklin Islands, off the far west coast of South Australia. In an effort to save the species, captive-bred animals from these islands have been released in other South Australian sites as well as on Salutation Island, in Henri Freycinet Harbour, and on Heirisson Prong, both in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area. They are found nowhere else in the world.

Habitat and ecology

  • The Greater Stick-nest Rats inhabit semi-arid to arid perennial shrublands where there is little or no fresh water, particularly with succulent and semi-succulent plant species.
  • The Greater Stick-nest Rats are named because of their extraordinary constructions. Groups of 10–20 rats work together to collect, pile and weave branches, sticks and stones around and over a nest of soft grass. This central living chamber is accessed via tunnels leading from the outside. The community continually extends and renovates their nest over many generations. Some nests are up to 1m high and 1.5 m wide. They may also use dense shrubs, bird nesting burrows, and crevices among rocks for shelter.
  • The Greater Stick-nest Rat is a predominantly ground-dwelling rat which is exclusively herbivorous, feeding on the leaves and fruits of succulent plants and grasses.
  • The Greater Stick-nest Rat breeds mostly in autumn and winter, when there is plenty of water and food. Breeding pairs establish strong bonds. One to four well-developed young are born after a pregnancy of more than six weeks. The young attach themselves to their mother’s teats and are dragged around on her errands until they are weaned, at about four weeks of age.


Threats

Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
Other StateSA Known None