Small slender mammal with small pointed head and small upright ears, four short legs with long claws and a long bushy tail. Reddish brown in colour with black and white banding over the rump, beige underbelly and a long back stripe across its eyes. Size: 20–29 cm long plus a tail 12–21 cm long. Males tend to be bigger than females. Weight: 478 g (average female), 597 g (average male).
Habitat and Distribution
Numbats were once found across the southern part of Australia but since European settlement their range has declined dramatically with only two wild populations remaining in south west Western Australia. Preferred habitat is forest and woodland.
Numbats are listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. They are very vulnerable to predation by introduced predators such as foxes and cats. They are also eaten by native reptiles and birds of prey. Habitat destruction is another serious threat. Working with the WA Department of Environment and Conservation, Perth Zoo breeds Numbats for release into protected habitat as part of a species recovery program. Over 180 Perth Zoo bred Numbats have been released into the wild (2011 figure). Some Numbats have also been translocated to fenced sanctuaries in SA and NSW.
Numbats are insectivores and eat an exclusive diet of termites. Adult Numbats consume up to 20,000 termites each day. They have a long, slender sticky tongue (10–11 cm long) which they dip into narrow cavities in logs, leaf litter and small holes in the ground to collect termites.
Breeding and Lifecycle
Numbats mate in January, have a gestation period of 14 days and produce a maximum of four pouch young. They are the size of a grain of rice when they are born and look like a pink jelly bean. They stay in their mother’s pouch until they are deposited into a nest burrow by their mother when they are around six months of age. They are independent by the end of the same year.
The Numbat is one of two Australian marsupials that are strictly diurnal (active during the day). It is also Western Australia’s mammal emblem.
The Zoo and Aquarium Association acknowledges Perth Zoo for providing the factsheet and image information above.