Print This Page Email this page to a friend

Current Projects

Fat-tailed dunnart hollow preferences and its application to finding the Kangaroo Island dunnart

Student? No

Fat-tailed dunnarts are a close relative of the KI dunnart


How can we learn more about an animal and its habitat needs when they are very difficult to find?

Only 22 Kangaroo Island Dunnarts have ever been found and we don’t know if any are still alive. Normal methods of tracking small mammals have not been successful and so nest boxes are being used to try to find this elusive animal. Work at Adelaide Zoo with a close relative will help work out what types of nest boxes the dunnarts are mostly likely to use.


Start date:

Department for Environment and Heritage, FauNature

Fat-tailed dunnarts are often caugh in pitfall traps and are more easy to study than KI dunnarts


The Kangaroo Island Dunnart (Sminthopsis aitkeni) is a small native marsupialthat has been very difficult to find.  Despite lots of time having been spent looking for them, only 22 animals have been found. Most dunnarts, 21 of the 22,  have been caught using pitfall traps. Even though other trapping methods have been used, they have only managed to catch one other animal.

Not much is known about what habitat the KI dunnarts like, and where they shelter. This makes it difficult to know where to try and find them. People don’t know if we are only catching a few animals because they are rare or because we are not looking in the right place.

To try and learn more about this species, the Department for Environment and Heritage Regional Conservation Unit on Kangaroo Island wants to try using ground nesting boxes and artificial hollows, to see if the dunnarts will use them. By catching more animals we will learn know more about the species and what it needs we can protect them better.



The aim of this research is to assess entrance hole size, box size and box complexity preferences exhibited in a closely related species, the fat-tailed dunnart, Sminthopsis crassicaudata.

Ultimately it is hoped the results from this project will provide a method of monitoring that will allow for the collection of information to aid in the conservation of the KI dunnart.



Nest boxes have been constructed and placed in the field on Kangaroo Island.  Evidence of animals using the boxes has been observed, and this evidence is being assessed to determine if it is dunnarts using the boxes or mice.

Fascinating facts

  • The KI Dunnart is Kangaroo Island's only endemic mammal
  • The KI Dunnart was first discovered in 1969, when a farmers dog caught one.
  • Very little is known about the KI Dunnart!

< Back to Current Projects

Page Last Updated September 27, 2012, 10:17 am