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!