Nature conservation

Threatened species

Boodie, Burrowing Bettong (mainland) - profile

Indicative distribution


   Loading map...
Key:
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: Bettongia lesueur graii
Conservation status in NSW: Presumed Extinct
Commonwealth status: Extinct
Profile last updated: 05 Aug 2019

Description

The Boodie (Bettongia lesueur), also known as the Burrowing Bettong, is a small marsupial. The largest of the bettongs, it is yellow-grey on its back and light grey on the belly with a lightly haired, fattened tail. In some regions the tail had a white tip. A pale, indistinct hip stripe was usually present. The ears were shorter and more rounded than in other bettong species. The head-body length was 28–40 cm, with the tail adding an additional 22–30 cm. The species generally weighed about 1.3 kg but could be as heavy as 2 kg.
The Boodie is very vocal and makes a variety of squeals, hisses and grunts and they move in a bipedal fashion, not making use of their tail or fore-limbs for support, except when stationary.

Distribution

The Burrowing Bettong was once common over a range that encompassed nearly half of Australia, including most of Western Australia (with the exception of the north Kimberley), South Australia, Queensland, western New South Wales and the Victorian mallee. Old Boodie warrens are still readily observed in central Australia, particularly in calcareous country where excavated stones and gravels form humps or mounds around the entrance of long abandoned warrens.

The decline of the Boodie on the mainland commenced in the nineteeth century and had disappeared from Victoria and NSW by the 1860s and from south-western Australia by the 1930s. However, it persisted until approximately the 1940s in some central desert areas.

The mainland subspecies (graii) is now extinct; however, two subspecies occur on islands off the coast of Western Australia; one undescribed subspecies on Boodie and Barrow Islands off the Pilbara coast; the other (lesueur) on Bernier and Dorre Islands off Shark Bay. Both these subspecies are listed nationally as vulnerable. It is the latter subspecies that has been used to establish a population in feral-free enclosures at the Australian Wildlife Conservancy run Scotia Sanctuary in south western New South Wales.

Habitat and ecology

  • The Boodie once lived in a range of dry subtropical and tropical habitats, from open Eucalyptus and Acacia woodlands to arid spinifex grasslands. In its current range on the islands, it seems to prefer open Triodia (spinifex) and dune habitats, but will burrow anywhere except places with rocky substrate.
  • The Burrowing Bettong ate variety of food such as seeds, fruits, flowers, tubers, roots, succulent leaves, grasses, fungi, termites and marine refuse. The populations fluctuated, building up during the years with average or good rainfall and crashing during drought years. These marsupials were known to live at least three years in the wild.
  • The Burrowing Bettong was nocturnal, foraging widely at night for food. During the day it sheltered in underground burrows, the only macropodiform to do so. Burrows varied from simple tunnels to complex networks with multiple entrances and deep, interconnecting tunnels. These elaborated burrows, or warrens, have been seen having from 4 to 94 entrances.
  • Before its extinction on the mainland, the Boodie served a very important function in the Australian grassland ecosystem. As it foraged, it mixed organic matter into the soil, spreading fungi and seeds. This mixing also increased water absorption into the soil and reduced the combustible material under trees, decreasing the likelihood of fire. These actions helped maintain the balance of trees, shrubs, and grasses. The loss of small, ground foraging animals after European settlement contributed to widespread soil deterioration. Also, the Boodie may have helped to thin woody weeds on rangeland by grazing shrubs regenerating after fires.
  • If conditions were good, the Boodie mated throughout the year, utilising a polygynous mating system. Males did not appear to have dominance hierarchies; rather, they defended females against other males. Some females seemed to establish associations with other females; whether these contribute to increased reproductive success is unknown. Gestation lasts 21 days, with only one young per litter. Like other marsupial newborns, the newborn was altricial. About four months elapse until weaning. After young leave the pouch, they take 6-7 months to sexually mature. Females mated the day after giving birth, and the fertilised egg arrested development until the young was weaned. In captivity, females are able to bear three young per year.


Threats

Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region