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The Greater Stick-Nest Rat (Leporillus conditor)

The Greater Stick-nest Rat is a threatened native rodent. It was once widely distributed across southern Australia, declining rapidly with European settlement and the spread of livestock during the nineteenth century. It became extinct on the mainland in the 1930s, remaining only on East and West Franklin Islands off the coast of South Australia. The species has been reintroduced to a number of islands in South Australia and Salutation Island at Shark Bay, Western Australia.

They are renowned for the construction of large communal nests made of branches and lined with grass and soft vegetation, and a gentle nature that makes them easy targets for predators. The rats are exclusively herbivorous and eat leaves and fruits of succulent plants such as bluebush and saltbush. One to three young are born after a gestation period of 44 days, becoming independent two months later. They can breed all year, and are capable of producing two or three litters per year.

The species has been successfully reintroduced to a number of islands, however most attempts at mainland reintroductions have been unsuccessful. The reintroductions have met with failure due to predation by introduced predators - foxes and feral cats, and through a lack of cover to avoid predation by introduced and native predators, such as goannas and owls.

Greater Stick-nest Rats were reintroduced to a 1400 hectare enclosure near Roxby Downs in South Australia in 1998, and the population is being monitored. In August and October 1999, and October 2001, Greater Stick-nest Rats were released at Heirisson Prong, Shark Bay, Western Australia. Forty eight animals were released in a co-operative effort between CSIRO, the Useless Loop community, Shark Bay Salt Joint Venture, Earthwatch volunteers, and the Western Australian Department of Conservation and Land Management. The history of this population on Heirisson Prong is detailed in a published paper.

Shading indicates former distribution, black dots give present distribution

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