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Golden bandicoot species back in NSW

Golden bandicoots have returned to NSW’s far-western deserts after being locally extinct for a century.

Conservationists from the University of NSW and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service released about 40 of them at nightfall on Monday.

It is hoped the predator-free section of the Strezlecki Desert at Sturt National Park will become a home to 900 golden bandicoots.

Wild Deserts principal ecologist Rebecca West said the animals had been missed in the desert.

“These golden bandicoots are ecosystem engineers,” Dr West said.

“They also capitalise on good conditions and are able to breed throughout the year.”

It is part of the NSW government’s $40 million feral predator-free project which has seen 10 of 13 proposed species introduced to the deserts in western NSW.

NSW Environment Minister James Griffin said the release wasn’t just good news for the golden bandicoots.

“It’s also good news for a range of other species that benefit from having bandicoots back in the environment,” he said.

The bandicoots will be joining a who’s who of locally reintroduced species, including the greater bilby, the numbat and the bridled nail-tail wallaby.

Golden bandicoots dig and turn over soil, helping with nutrient cycling which fosters plant growth.

Fossil records show they were once present in the Sturt National Park area but they were driven into extinction by feral pests and environment pressures.

The golden bandicoots had a rough ride into NSW from Western Australia, where they had been captured in a feral-free area in Martu country in the Western Desert.

Heavy winds prevented the golden-brown creatures leaving their old home for days before finally a plane was able to leave Sturt to bring them to their new digs.

Dr West said conservationists will be keeping a close eye on the park’s new tenants, with tiny two gram radio transmitters taped to each of the bandicoots’ tails.

“This will give us some really important information on how the bandicoots are settling in over the next two months,” she said.

Australia has the highest species extinction rate in the world, with even icons like the koala considered endangered.

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