The Dibbler is a small brownish-grey animal with flecks of white through its coat. The underside is greyish-white tinged with yellow. It has a tapering hairy tail and distinctive white rings around each eye. Males are significantly larger than females, with some reaching up to 120 g and females reaching about 80 g.
Habitat and Distribution
Dibblers are generally found in areas of thick heath that haven’t been burned recently and which have sandy soils and deep layers of leaf litter. Once found across much of the southwest of Western Australia, Dibblers are now restricted to only two natural populations on islands off Jurien Bay (about 200 km north of Perth) and in the Fitzgerald River National Park on the south coast.
Dibblers were presumed to be extinct until they were rediscovered near Albany in 1967. The last time they were seen before this was 1904. Threats to their survival include introduced predators (cats and foxes), land clearing and habitat fragmentation, and threats to the quality of the remaining habitat such as frequent fire and the plant dieback disease, Phytophthora cinnamomi.
The Dibbler Recovery Plan 2003 – 2013 includes actions to protect and monitor existing populations, maintain a captive breeding colony to provide animals for translocations, establish new populations through translocations, encourage community involvement in Dibbler recovery and improve our knowledge of the species.
Dibblers are carnivores but due to their small size they mainly eat invertebrates. Insects and spiders make up the bulk of their diet which is supplemented in small amounts with nectar, berries and occasionally a little meat – birds, reptiles or mice.
Breeding and Lifecycle
Dibblers are seasonal breeders. In fact, the females have only one oestrus event each year. They mate in Autumn and give birth to up to eight tiny young which remain permanently attached to a teat in a shallow pouch for two months before being deposited into a nest. They are weaned and independent from their mother by four months of age. Dibblers breed well as 1 and 2 year olds but as they get older they decline somewhat in productivity. Dibblers can live up to 4 years of age in the wild but 2 – 3 years is more common.
Perth Zoo breeds Dibblers for release into the wild as part of the Dibbler Recovery Plan. For more information, on the Dibbler Recovery Plan 2003 – 2013 see http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/p-apicalis/pubs/p-apicalis.pdf