Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Sniffing out danger: rapid antipredator training of an endangered marsupial.

Abstract

Globally, predator aversion training has assisted naive prey species to learn to evade introduced predators, improving translocation success. Eastern barred bandicoots (Perameles gunnii; hereafter 'bandicoot') are extinct on mainland Australia due to habitat loss and introduced predators, and are the focus of a long-term captive breeding and reintroduction program. Our trials showed that captive bandicoots failed to recognise cat (Felis catus) scents as belonging to a predator, suggesting prey naivety towards cats. We trialled five stimuli to elicit short-term fear behaviour in bandicoots. An automatic compressed air spray and automatic bin lid were most effective. We coupled these stimuli with cat urine during predator aversion training and presented them to bandicoots on three occasions. Bandicoots learnt to avoid the area containing cat urine, suggesting bandicoots are capable of learning new behaviours rapidly. Six trained and five untrained captive bandicoots where released onto Summerland Peninsular, Phillip Island (with cat densities at 1.1 cats/km2). Both had high survival and recapture rates 7 months after release. Training endangered species to avoid introduced predators could assist with long-term species recovery.