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Marsupial Society of Victoria Reg No: A0034765K

February - March 2008

Photo by : Amber Yarde

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February - March 2008 WELCOME - New Members K. Cramer. G. Hemley

Marsupial Society of Victoria Reg No: A0034765K

From the Committee


Notice of AGM


Epidemics, economics & extinction.


Plight of the Bilby


2007—2008 Committee President Amber Yarde - 9776 2314

Vice President Doug Van Opijnen - 5167 1492 Secretary (position vacant)

Quoll population & How Mammals lost their egg yolks. 8 Hope for cure for dying Tasmanian Devils


Wildlife Australia


MSoV Exchange List


Did you know?


Objectives of the Society

Treasurer Tracy Luther WPTAC Representative Glen Rathjen Exchange Steward Doug Van Opijnen Committee Members Lewis Russell Andrew Yarde

The study of marsupials. The promotion of hygienic keeping, scientific management and breeding of marsupials in captivity. The dissemination of information on marsupial keeping and hand rearing. The conservation of marsupials in the wild and the establishment of viable breeding populations in captivity. The representation and publication of the objectives of the Society to the government and community.

Post : PO Box 183, Braeside, Vic, 3195 Email : Web : Exchange Steward :

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From the Committee

Membership renewals have been steadily coming in. Thankyou to all renewing members for their continued support of the Society. Welcome to our newest members K. Cramer and G. Hemley. Membership renewal forms have again been included in this magazine (if you have not renewed), they can also be downloaded from the website. This magazine is a collection of interesting information that has been in the news over the last few months. We are always looking for articles if you have any please send to Our twilight BBQ was held on March 8th and was well attended with the usual faces and some people we were meeting for the first time. We all had a chance to discuss the calendar events for the rest of the year which will be finalised over the next month or so and will be advertised. Wildlife returns were due from 31st of March, if you have not done your return please get them in as soon as possible. Notice of our Annual General meeting is on page 3 of this magazine. This year it will be held at the Melbourne Museum with a Behind the Scenes tour with one of the collection managers. I am currently in the process of updating and increasing the number of fact sheets on the website. If any members have any keeper information on particular species please send me an email or give me a call any input in regards to your husbandry experiences and observations are always welcome. The Exchange is being updated as June 1st. Any listing over 12 months old will be being deleted. Please contact Doug to update your listings if they are still required. In this magazine is a member survey on the animals you keep. Doug is undertaking this project. The idea is to find out what animals people are keeping. It is completely voluntary and the information collected is to provide a service to members and focus on points of interest. The view overtime is to expand our members information to have a breeding register for species in the hope of tracking and maintaining genetic diversity. As always your information is confidential and is never passed on without your express permission. There are two ways to complete the member survey 1. Complete the coping with this magazine and mail directly to Doug (address on form). 2. Go to the Marsupial Society website, the survey can be found by clicking on the membership link on the homepage. Save the file to you computer, open the file and record your numbers, save again using your name eg “membersurveyyarde”, then email to Doug on

Amber Yarde Payment options Cheques made payable to The Marsupial Society of Victoria Inc To the The Treasurer Marsupial Society of Victoria Inc PO Box 183, Braeside Victoria 3195 Direct Deposit via Internet Banking Westpac BSB 033-138 Account # 313318 Description should read ‘your name” 2007MR Cash - in person to the President or Treasurer

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Marsupial Society of Victoria Inc. Annual General Meeting 2008 Melbourne Museum. Discovery Centre Seminar Room Saturday May 31 1pm arrival. 1:30 Meeting start 1. Meeting Open 1:30pm 2. Attendance & Apologies 3. 2007 Minutes 4. Presidents report 5. Treasurers Report 6. 2007 WPTAC Report 7. General Business 8. ELECTIONS 2006-2007 - President - Treasurer - Appointment of auditor - Vice President x 1 (if required) - Secretary - Committee (2 positions if required) 9. Guest Speaker - Collections Manager, Rory O’Brien 10. Meeting close Meeting will be followed by a Behind the Scenes tour with Rory. RSVP to Amber 9776 2314 by 28th May as numbers will need to be confirmed with the Museum.

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Epidemics, economics and extinction. Dr David M Watson, Associate Professor in Ecology, leads the Ecology and Biodiversity group at the Institute of Land, Water and Society at Charles Sturt University, Albury. taken from The arrival of horse flu provides an instructive case-study into the threats posed by animal borne-disease— Australia’s vulnerability to them and the strength and scale of response required to deal with them. As with emergency medicine, the speed of response is critical—in many cases, a delayed response is often too late to make any difference. Rather than being a chance occurrence, epidemiologists and veterinary researchers have been anticipating epidemics like this, so the events of recent months provide a useful opportunity to gauge our preparedness. In particular it is useful to contrast the response to horse-flu in Australia with the reaction to other animal-borne diseases, notably the facial-tumour disease affecting Tasmanian Devils. Are threats of economic and ecological disaster treated differently, and what are the short and long-term repercussions for Australia if we get it wrong? Twelve years ago, reports emerged of an unknown disease affecting Tasmanian Devils, leading to the growth of large tumours on their face and upper body. In addition to disfiguring the animals, the disease is both fatal and incurable, infected animals dying within several months of first showing symptoms. Biologists were quick to realise the implications of this epidemic, warning of potential ecological disaster if immediate action wasn’t taken. In the decade since this disease first appeared, despite concerted efforts from biologists, pathologists, epidemiologists, veterinarians and other researchers, we still don’t know exactly what the disease is or how it can be treated. Devils are dying at unprecedented rates in the wild, with declines of 90 per cent reported in the north-east during 2002–05, compared to baseline numbers in 1992–5. At a scientific forum in Hobart in 2007, researchers agreed that it represented a previously unknown and highly virulent form of transmissible cancer: where it originated and whether it can be cured remain unknown and are the focus of current research. Many people involved in this work consider it likely that devils will become extinct in the wild, and have already established “insurance” populations on other islands and in captive facilities like Healesville Sanctuary, taking precautions to ensure all individuals are disease free. The future prospects are not good, and a world without Tasmanian Devils in the wild seems a very real possibility. To make matters worse, in 2001 foxes were deliberately introduced to Tasmania. The response to this well-publicised act was painfully slow, despite being likened to terrorism by some of Australia’s leading biologists. Indeed, it was late 2006 before the Minister for Primary Industries finally announced funding for the ten year Fox Eradication strategy, far too late to make any real difference according to many biologists. The combined effects of an introduced predator and an unchecked disease is truly an alarming prospect for Tasmania’s native fauna. Researchers are already drawing parallels with the extinction of Thylacines early last century, begging the question of whether we’ve learned anything about environmental management over the past century. The implications extend well beyond devils, with Australia’s next largest predatory marsupial (eastern quolls) and all manner of other native species threatened with imminent extinction. Will predatory foxes replace the scavenging devils, and how will that affect the many Tasmanian bird species that nest on the ground? Only time will tell, but international attention is focused on this matter, made all the more shocking by the fact that it was both intentional and avoidable.

Page 5 Another animal-borne disease that has appeared on our shores recently is equine influenza. Neither fatal nor disfiguring and having no effect on native fauna, the speed and scale of the response to this disease were unprecedented. Within two days of being reported, all movement of horses within New South Wales was halted, large-scale testing of all suspected infections was conducted and all infected animals were held in tight quarantine conditions (extending to all horses and even zebras and rhinoceroses in zoos). Within nine days of the first case, the Prime Minister announced a full judicial inquiry to find out how Australia’s famed quarantine protocols were breached and determine how best to ensure the disease is restricted, controlled and ultimately eradicated. The worst case scenario if this disease actually took hold in Australia is that vaccines would need to be imported and distributed to ensure no more horses became infected, and Australia would lose its status as a horse flu-free country. From an animal welfare point of view, there would be remarkably few implications. Very young and older horses are more vulnerable to the disease, increasing the likelihood of premature mortality, typically through complications arising from secondary infections. Otherwise, it would be back to business as normal. Likewise, there are few implications from a conservation point of view. Horse flu may infect wild populations of horses which, if anything, would be a positive outcome, diminishing the damage done to our sensitive native habitats by brumbies. From an economic point of view, there would be serious short and medium term implications, leading to real hardship for many of the 249,000 people employed in Australia’s racing industry, exemplified by the recent situation in NSW where a complete standstill on the movement of horses was enforced. Yet, once the Australian horse population had been vaccinated, the racing industry could return to normal, just as in South Africa, after the horse flu in 1986. Reflecting on these two examples, several points are clear. Australian society—as evinced by the action (or lack thereof) of its representative governments—is far more concerned about economic issues than environmental ones. While this is hardly surprising, the consequences of this disparity are alarming. We have the capacity to act rapidly and decisively in a coordinated and measured way to halt virulent animal-borne diseases. Considerable resources can be mobilized; state and federal governments can work together to ensure the risks associated with animal-borne disease are contained and minimized. Yet, when we choose to do so depends on the circumstances, and the possibility of economic loss far outweighs the possibility of extinction in catalysing action. This raises the question: what are the economic implications of extinction of large numbers of native species? As native animals go, the Tasmanian Devil is more charismatic than most, inspiring cartoon characters and acting as a poster child for conservation, sustainable development and environmental management. Would Tasmania continue to attract as many domestic and international tourist dollars if there were no devils left? It is well within our power to ensure this question remains unanswered. By marshalling the considerable expertise currently focused on this issue and matching the scale of the threat with the magnitude of response, these extinctions can be averted. More broadly, we need to reevaluate efforts currently being directed towards similar threats elsewhere in Australia. Invasive species like Cane Toads and Buffel Grass, continued land-clearing and poorly-regulated development continue to march across Australia, laying waste to native habitats and threatening entire ecosystems. If history has taught us anything, regardless of whether it’s a tumour, the flu or a thousand cuts: death is permanent and extinction is forever.

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Plight of the Bilby

parts of article taken from 24 March 2008 by Shirley Sinclair Not too long ago, bilbies could be found in arid and semiarid areas, spread across three-quarters of Australia. Today, the greater bilby is only found in pockets of mulga and spinifex scrubland infar south-west Queensland, as well as northern Western Australia and the Northern Territory. They are listed as “vulnerable” nationally and “endangered” in Queensland, where only an estimated 1000 remain in the wild. But a group of dedicated scientists, wildlife conservationists and volunteers are working tirelessly to bring the greater bilby (also known as the rabbit-eared bandicoot) back from the brink. They are aided in their race against time by funding from the Save The Bilby Fund, Federal Government grants and major donations from community groups such as the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland. With a long-pointed nose, silky pale blue-grey fur with patches of tan, big ears and a black and white tail fanned like a tiny Mohawk, the bilby is certainly a unique Australian marsupial. The males grow to about 45cm in length, and weigh up to 2.2kg; the females, are smaller, growing to about 30cm and a weight up to 1.2kg. Females have a backwards-opening pouch for their young, similar to that of koalas and wombats. Coordinator of the Save The Bilby Fund in Charleville, Emily Chandler, says breeding occurs throughout the year and the Charleville EPA centre females have produced 15 young during the last six months. Female bilbies can breed from six months old and have only a 12- to 14-day pregnancy, often producing twins. Young stay in the pouch for 80 days. Bilbies then put their young in burrows, returning for about two weeks regularly to feed them, before the young become self-sufficient. The very controlled breeding program also has adults in captivity at Dreamworld and David Fleays Wildlife Park on the Gold Coast.

A total of 30 adult bilbies are involved. EPA zoologist Peter McRae is in charge of the breeding program at Charleville, and has been studying bilbies since 1988. He was working as a National Parks and Wildlife ranger in Charleville when he and fellow ranger Frank Manthey devised a plan to try to reverse the decline of bilby populations, which had been decimated by predators such as feral cats and foxes, competition for food by rabbits and livestock, and changing habitats as a result of agriculture and different fire patterns.

Page 7 They wanted to erect a predator-proof enclosure for bilbies at Currawinya National Park, about 1000km west of Brisbane, near Hungerford on the Queensland-New South Wales border. On March 28, 1999, they launched the Save The Bilby Fund to raise $300,000 in an Australia-wide appeal. After hours and in school holidays, they worked tirelessly for the appeal, hosting bilby information nights, designing and selling a line of bilby merchandise, visiting schools and increasing public awareness of the creature’s plight. They became known as “the Bilby Brothers”, with Australian Story screening a documentary on the pair and humorously labelling them “the men who killed the Easter Bunny”. The response to their appeal was overwhelming, with more than $800,000 raised – nearly three times the target. A 29sq km enclosure was officially opened at Currawinya at Easter 2001 and completed in 2002, when a program began to remove all bilby predators from the area. Due to drought conditions, the first bilbies weren’t released there until 2005. Peter McRae, who monitors the animals inside the enclosure, was delighted to find the first-known pouch young to be born inside the fence in 2006. More bilbies will be released at Currawinya this year. “The aim is to increase numbers to about 400 inside the fence at Currawinya, and then open part of it (to release them) to the rest of the national park,” Emily says. Eventually, the Currawinya Project will protect Queensland’s second wild population of bilbies. The other is at Astrebla Downs National Park in the Channel Country near Birdsville, with a population of about 300. With demand increasing to see bilbies in captivity, the fund has supplied Currumbin Sanctuary, David Fleay’s Wildlife Park, Australia Zoo, Dreamworld and Scotia Sanctuary in South Australia with bilbies for display and, in some cases, breeding

Bilby follow up

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Quoll population thriving in island setting

posted 26/03/2008 A population of a rare native marsupial has increased after scientists moved them to remote islands off the Northern Territory coast. There were only 65 northern quolls on the mainland until the animals were transported to two islands off Arnhem Land five years ago. The NT Government's principal scientist, John Woinarski, says without the threat of cane toads, numbers have increased to 6,000. "As it turned out, there wasn't much competition for them," he says. "There weren't any predators and they basically found paradise. "It surpassed any of our expectations and I think they're leading a really charmed life. "The populations have effectively tripled every year."

How mammals lost their egg yolks

It is a chicken and egg question – did mammals evolve nutritional milk before or after they abandoned yolky eggs? "Milk was originally for egg wetting," says Henrik Kaessman at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. Instead of a hard shell, the first mammalian eggs had a parchment-like covering which mothers rolled in milk to prevent them drying out, he says. Today, placental and marsupial mammals nourish their newborn young with milk containing a calcium-packed protein called casein. It was suspected that even though the platypus lays eggs, its milk would also have casein-like proteins, which Kaessman's team confirmed through genetic analysis. This finding suggests nutritional milk would have arisen in all mammals in a common ancestor, up to 310 million years ago. Kaessman says mammals abandoned yolky eggs long after they began lactating, as confirmed by his genetic analysis of three genes for a protein called vitellogenin, which ferries nutrients into the yolky egg. All the genes are active in chickens. None are functioning in placental or marsupial mammals, but one still works in the platypus, which has small yolks in its eggs. Journal reference: PLoS Biology (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060063) Web info :

If you have any photos, articles, did you know facts, please forward them to the editor @ Deadlines for submitting articles/ information for 2008 are the 10th May, 10th July, 10th September and 10th November. All articles need to be supplied via email or computer disk. Photos should be JPEG or GIF images. Disks will be returned after article has gone to print.

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Hope for cure for dying Tasmanian Devils RESEARCHERS believe they may be on the verge of a breakthrough in the fight to save the Tasmanian devil from a deadly plague that is threatening the species with extinction. The unlikely would-be saviour of the world's largest marsupial carnivore is an unassuming devil named Cedric. In a development described as "the most exciting" in the five-year quest to halt devil facial tumour disease (DFTD), Cedric has shown an immune response to the unique communicable cancer. He is the first of his species known to do so, and University of Tasmania researchers expect he will remain disease free, despite being exposed to DFTD. This would mean that devils sharing Cedric's mix of immune-related genes may be resistant to DFTD, or capable of responding to a vaccine. And that would save the endangered species from its march toward extinction, which had appeared unstoppable. DFTD has wiped out an estimated 53 per cent of the species in the past 12 years. "I think this is the most exciting thing that has happened in this program - the devils could be their own saviours," said Greg Woods, who is conducting the research for the Save the Tasmanian Devil program, with PhD student Alex Kreiss. An immune response has been lacking in devils affected by DFTD, allowing the disease to slip under their natural radar and spread, ending in death from starvation and organ failure. Cedric and his half-brother Clinky were injected with dead DFTD cells about nine months ago. Cedric produced antibodies; Clinky did not. The difference between the half-brothers, who share the same mother but different fathers, lies in variations in immune-related genes, or major histocompatibility complex (MHC). Clinky's MHC, like many of his species, is so similar to the MHC of the disease that his immune system has not recognised DFTD as an invader. Cedric's MHC is different, however, and his immune system did respond. Two months ago, the half-brothers were injected with live DFTD cells. If Cedric remains healthy, while Clinky contracts the disease, this would suggest that devils with Cedric's MHC are DFTD-resistant or capable of responding to a vaccine. It could be months before a final outcome, as DFTD has an incubation period of up to six months. "It keeps me awake at night - we are really relying on just one devil," said Dr Woods, associate professor of immunology at the university's Menzies Research Institute. "The answer could be just around the corner - or we could be back to basics." If Cedric proves resistant and this is confirmed in devils with the same MHC, Dr Woods foreshadows a breeding program to spread disease-detecting genes throughout the population.

Page 10 Spread when devils bite each other during fights and mating, DFTD has swept across 60 per cent of Tasmania. However, devils in Cedric's west coast region remain disease-free. The program is continuing to send disease-free devils to mainland wildlife parks and zoos as insurance in case the species dies out in the wild. Tasmanian wildlife parks are also building insurance populations. Go Wild at Bonorong Conservation Centre, north of Hobart, on Friday revealed it was building new devil quarantine pens to cater for an expanded devil population. Article taken from,25197,23457341-2702,00.html By Andrew Denholm, 31 March 2008

Wildlife Australia “Finding wildlife is no easy task it can take many years to get hold of that special animal, so here is a list of Links� Follow the links on

Animal Info Australian Animals as Pets Where do I find animals?

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MSoV Exchange List Surplus

7 x Unsexed - Fat tailed Dunnarts Sminthopsis crassicaudata Ex Healesville will swap same to get another bloodline 4 x Male Sugar Gliders - Petaurus breviceps breviceps 1 x Male Sugar Glider - Petaurus breviceps breviceps, Mitchell's Hopping Mice - Notomys mitchelli 1 x Breeding pair Tammar Wallabies - Macropus eugenii 4 x Male Tammar Wallabies - Macropus eugenii 1 x Male Red neck Wallaby - Macropus rufogriseus 2 x Male Tammar Wallabies - Macropus eugenii - split albino 3 x Male Tammar Wallabies - Macropus eugenii 3 x Male Red neck Wallabies - Macropus rufogriseus 2 x 2006 Male Red neck Wallabies - Macropus rufogriseus 1 x 2006 Male Tammar Wallaby - Macropus eugenii 1 x 2004 Male Red neck Wallaby - Macropus rufogriseus 2 x Breeding pair Tammar Wallabies - Macropus eugenii


1 x Common Ringtail Possum

- Pseudocheirus peregrinus,

1 x Male Western Grey Kangaroo

- Macropus fuliginosus,

1 x Male Red Kangaroo

- Macropus rufus,

Tasmanian Bettong

- Bettongia giamardi,

1 x Female Sugar Glider

- Petuarus breviceps,

Common Wombats

- Vombatus ursinus,

1 x Female Sugar Glider

- Petuarus breviceps,

Common Wombats

- Vombatus ursinus,

2 x Pair Kowaris

- Dasyuroides byrnei,

2 x Mitchell's Hopping mice

- Notomys mitchelli,

2 x Red Neck Wallabies

- Macropus rufogriseus, breeding pair.

1 x Female Swamp Wallaby

- Wallabia bicolor

Page 12 2 x Sugar gliders

- Petuarus breviceps

1 x Wombat for

- Vombatus ursinus (for Wildlife displays)

1 x ringtail possum

- Pseudocheirus peregrinus (for displays)

Pair of Sugar Gliders

- Petaurus breviceps

Pair of Sugar Gliders

- Petaurus breviceps

Female ringtail possum (to hand raise)

- Pseudocheirus peregrinus.

Tasmanian Pademelon (breeding animals)

- Thylogale billardierii

1 x female Sugar Glider

- Petuarus breviceps

1 x F/ Tammar Wallaby

- Macropus eugenii


Rufous Bettongs Aepyprymnus rufescens for Red Legged Pademelons Thylogale stigmatica If you have any animals to add to this list please email or call the Exchange Steward, Doug Van Opijnen 5167 1492

Please note : where a listing does not have a contact - email or call the Exchange Steward @ Save the address to your favourites The MSoV website is being updated on a regular basis. Get your 2008 membership renewal form. Join the Marsupial Society group on Vicnet to communicate with other members Follow the “join a community link�

Send in your photos to go on the site.

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Did you know? Macropods cannot sweat. If a Macropod becomes overheated or is stressed it will lick its forearms to cool down.

A Kangaroo’s stomach represents 15% of its body weight. The digestion of the cellulose takes place in the stomach by symbiont bacteria (cows and deer do the same, but they also ruminate). The Koala's closest living relative is the wombat, although the genetic code between the two species differs by more than 20% (the difference in genetics between humans and chimpanzees is less than 1%).


Opinions expressed in the Marsupial Society of Victoria’s publication do not necessarily represent those of the MSOV Inc. No responsibility is accepted by the Society or the Editorial Team of the journal for the accuracy of any statement, opinion, or advice contained in the text or advertisements. Readers should rely on their own enquiries in making any decisions relating to their own interests.


All material appearing in the MSOV publication is copyright. No matter contained in there may be reproduced without the permission of the Society/Author.

Front Cover Photo:

Photo by Amber Yarde. Young wombat at Gaby’s in Tolmie

Rear Cover Photo: Photo by (unknown)

MSOV Book List Title


Arboreal Marsupials - a guide to keeping Possums & Gliders Racheal Attracting Butterflies to Your Garden Clyne Australian Bird Garden Pizzey Bringing Back the Bush Bradley Care of Australian Wildlife Walraven Caring for Australian Native Birds Parsons Field Guide to Australian Trees Holliday Field Guide to Mammals of Australia Menkhorst Flowering Natives for Home Gardens Greg Gliders of Australia (UNSW) Lindenmayer Green Guide to Mammals of Australia Lindsey How to Photograph Animals in the Wild Rue How to Photograph Close-ups in Nature Rotenberg Kangaroos (UNSW) Dawson Green Guide - Kangaroos & Wallabies of Australia Robinson Managing & Conserving Grassy Woodlands Editor National Parks of Australia Fox Photographic Guide Mammals of Australia Strahan Prehistoric Mammals: Australia/NG Flannery et al Secret Life of Wombats Woodford Tadpoles of South-Eastern Australia Anstis Tracks, Scats and Other Traces Triggs Wildlife on Farms: How to Conserve Native Animals 120 Walks in Victoria Thomas Life of Marsupials Tyndale-Biscoe Mammals of Australia Strahan Aust: Mammals:Biology & Captive Management Jackson



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$13.95 $20.00 $32.00 $15.00 $20.00 $20.00 $25.00 $32.00 $37.00 $32.00 $14.00 $40.00 $36.00 $32.00

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Enquires or Orders contact MSOV Amber Yarde 9776 2314 Postage and Handling extra. All Prices are GST Inclusive

Cheques payable to MSoV - some books subject to wholesale availability

Photo by : Amber Yarde

Marsupial Society of Victoria - Autumn 2008  

Marsupial Society of Victoria - Autumn 2008 journal.

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