Move over, koalas and quokkas. Australia has a new cute marsupial in town.
Meet the eastern bettong. If the name doesn’t sound familiar, that’s because this adorable species was extinct in the Australian mainland for quite some time. Overhunting from farmers and introduced predators, such as cats and foxes, eradicated them in Canberra around the early 20th century.
Fortunately, populations in Tasmania survived. And now for the past four years, they’re being reintroduced to their former habitats in the mainland.
Kate Grarock, an ecologist at the Mulligan’s Flat sanctuary in Canberra, is looking to raise awareness about the species to ensure their survival.
“No-one’s heard of a bettong, except for people who’ve been to Tasmania, or lived in Tasmania,” Grarock told Mashable Australia. “I studied environmental science, and I hadn’t even heard of one. It’s a representation of the sad state of affairs for these little bettongs. They’re really cool little animals.”
Using social media, Grarock documents the adventures of her two hand-raised eastern bettongs, Brian and Berry, as they go around telling everyone that the lovable marsupials exist.
“What we’re trying to do is get the message out there and make people fall in love with these gorgeous little animals,” Grarock added. “But of course, they’re more than cool little animals, they’re doing great things for the ecosystem too.”
The more than 300 eastern bettongs now living in the sanctuary help nourish trees in the area by digging up and spreading truffles, which aid in root nutrition.
Currently, Mulligan’s Flat is trying to raise funds to build a bigger fence, which would allow a bigger population of eastern bettongs to thrive. The government has already pledged money, but the sanctuary still needs AUS$600,000 (US$451,000) to get it done.
You can head on over here to donate and help save these cute creatures. We failed them once, let’s not fail them again.
— Mulligans Flat (@MulligansFlat) April 15, 2016
Trying to teach the little girl manners like keeping her mouth closed while eating. Alas the banana is too delicious pic.twitter.com/JxR2Ee8lRo
— Brian Bettong (@BrianBettong) April 25, 2016
— Brian Bettong (@BrianBettong) May 7, 2016
— Dr Kate Grarock (@KateGrarock) July 4, 2016