It’s tiny, only weighs the equivalent of four grapes and holds the key DNA needed to resurrect an extinct tiger. Today, on National Threatened Species Day, Zoos SA is celebrating the Tasmanian Tiger’s closest living relative, the Fat-tailed Dunnart.
National Threatened Species Day marks the anniversary of the extinction of the Tasmanian Tiger, also known as the Thylacine, declared extinct on 7 September 1936.
Weighing in at just 20 grams, the Fat-tailed Dunnart may seem like an unlikely candidate, but DNA confirms the tiny marsupial is indeed the closest living relative to the Tasmanian Tiger and is also related to endangered Tasmanian Devils and threatened quolls. Unlike the fate of the Tasmanian Tiger, Zoos SA is on a mission to ensure Fat-tailed Dunnarts and other dunnart species don’t follow the same path to extinction as their striped relative.
Keeper Kasey Fenwick says Quiche is one of five resident Fat-tailed Dunnarts at Adelaide Zoo and is playing an important role in the conservation of her species.
“Quiche was born as part of Adelaide Zoo’s breeding program and is now taking part in the program to boost the number of Fat-tailed Dunnarts.
Quiche’s contribution to conservation doesn’t end at her own species, the little marsupial has also played an important role in the conservation of fellow dunnarts, the Kangaroo Island Dunnart.
“She helped trial tracking collars to study the movements of her cousins, the critically endangered Kangaroo Island Dunnart.
“Being similar in size to the Kangaroo Island Dunnart, we were able to refine the design and fit of the collars.”
Quiche’s trial of the collars set the project up for success, with Zoos SA using the collars to track Kangaroo Island Dunnarts for over a month, gaining valuable information on the health of the wild population on the island and insight into the species habits, foraging and nesting behaviour.
Good research is crucial in conservation because for endangered animals, there are rarely second chances.
On National Threatened Species Day, we reflect on the fact Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate of any country in the world. It is a stark reminder of the importance of conservation breeding programs and how Zoos SA contributes to a number of other conservation programs including native ‘breed to release’ programs. Find out more on our conservation page.