Antechinus

antichinus

 

 

Whilst tree surgeons at Potoroo Palace were removing a half fallen tree, they were surprised to discover 6 very young mouse- like creatures who went scattering in all different directions. They were subsequently captured and offered up to the keepers to feed the snakes with. But instead, after seeing that they were in fact antechinus – a small native marsupial – the keepers cared for and saved them.

Very young antechinus are particularly difficult to hand rear due to an underslung jaw, unlike baby pygmy possoms and feathertail gliders who can be fed early on with a dropper, but the baby antechinus will get milk in all directions and have to be bathed afterwards every time.

It proved to be a bit of a struggle and they were in need of feeding every 3 hours day and night at one stage. 2 of the litter survived and have grown up very strong and healthy due to the committed and vigilant care of one of Potoroo Palace’s staff.

There are 2 kinds of antechinus in this area; the Dusky (antechinus swainsonii) and the Agile (antechinus agilis). The Agile are a newly discovered variant who were previously thought to be Brown (antechinus stuartii) but are distinguished by their relatively small size, grey body fur, certain skull characteristics and distinctive tissue proteins. They are just one of several species from the family of dasyurids which also includes the more commonly known tasmanian devils, quolls, phascogales and numbats. There are many lesser known species which belong to this family too, and at least 8 known types of antechinus within Australia.

It used to be thought that the Agile Antechinus was carnivorous, eating mainly cockroaches and spiders but it is now known that they are particularly good pollinators especially of banksias and callistemons and considered even better at this than the honeyeater birds!

Palace Potoroos

potoroos shaun

 

The staff at Potoroo Palace are continually fascinated by the number of visitors who have never heard of, let alone seen, a potoroo and one of the reasons the name was chosen 8 years ago for this local wildlife sanctuary was to highlight the value of this amazing little native marsupial and as a symbol for the importance of protecting our unique environment.

The vulnerable Long-nosed Potoroo (potorous tridactylus) is an endearing little creature, with fur varying from dark red-brown to dark grey, paler on the underside and with a long, pointed nose, bare skinned above the nostrils. The tail usually has a white tip. Their most popular choice of food is truffles, the fruit of underground fungi. They also eat seeds, roots, bulbs and insects. The potoroo spreads fungi spores throughout the forest in its droppings to new places in which they can grow. In addition to this spore dispersal, potoroos also help many trees and shrubs that have a symbiotic, mycorrhizal relationship with fungi, where the fungus benefits plants by increasing their ability to capture water and nutrients. So potoroos do in fact play a crucial role in maintaining the health of the Australian natural environment and by contributing to the elimination of bush fire risk.

There are currently 17 adult Long-nosed Potoroos residing at Potoroo Palace and they can be seen in several different locations within the park. There are 3 visible in the Woodland Aviary sharing the space with 2 bettongs and it is most interesting to see the 2 species together and to try to spot the differences.

There have frequently been potoroo babies (known as joeys) born at Potoroo Palace over the years.  4 have been promised to Chris Humfrey for his Wild Action Zoo in Macedon, Victoria, to prevent any inbreeding and assist with expansion of the gene pool. 3 babies can now be viewed each in different enclosures and adapting to their new life at the palace!