Pouch ‘sharing’ may save endangered species

‘‘CROSS-fostering’’ may be the key to bringing Australia’s threatened kangaroo and wallaby species back from the brink of extinction, a Newcastle-led team of researchers say.

The technique involves the transfer of tiny joeys from the pouches of endangered wild animals to the pouches of other more common kangaroo and wallaby species.

The technique has been developed by Dr David Taggart, a marsupial reproduction specialist who is part of a team of researchers led by the University of Newcastle in a bid for funds to establish a Wildlife Biodiversity Co-operative Research Centre.

Dr Taggart said cross-fostering significantly accelerates the breeding of endangered species and would have a significant impact on the conservation of Australian marsupials into the future. 

‘‘With the backing of the Wildlife Biodiversity Co-operative, this and other assisted breeding techniques will be adapted to a wide variety of threatened kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, possums and rat kangaroos,” he said.

Heading up the bid is Newcastle-based Professor John Rodger, who said 15per cent of all wallabies and kangaroos were already extinct or threatened. 

‘‘While large kangaroo species such as the red kangaroo are abundant, some of the smaller species are in serious decline,” he said.

‘‘Since 1788, Australia has lost 27 [species of] mammals, many of them marsupials. This is one world record we do not want to hold.

The team hopes to establish a $200million world-leading Cooperative Research Centre for Wildlife Biodiversity with federal funding and in-kind support. Their research in gene banking, reproduction and fertility management, applied ecology and disease detection and response is aimed at addressing present biodiversity decline  as well as ‘‘future proofing’’ Australia’s wildlife, Professor Rodger said.

If the bid is successful, the centre will target a long list of endangered species, which includes the long-footed potoroo, northern bettong, and Gilbert’s potoroo.

Dr Taggart’s cross-fostering technique will be showcased in a David Attenborough documentary  The Rise of Mammals, airing in February.

The story Pouch ‘sharing’ may save endangered species first appeared on Newcastle Herald.

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