Bettong Fact Sheet
Eastern Bettong (Bettongia gaimardi)
The Eastern Bettong was once a common sight across the east of Australia. When Europeans settled in Australia they brought with them predators – the Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) and the cat (Felis catus). The Bettongs had never experienced such smart hunters before and many were predated upon. In addition to this, the white settlers were growing vegetable gardens full of delicious potatoes. Overnight the bettongs would destroy the veggie patches that resulted in a bounty placed upon them. Due to these factors, the Eastern Bettong became extinct on mainland Australia over 100 years ago.
For the last century, the Eastern Bettong has been happily living in Tasmania and are now often known as the ‘Tasmanian Bettong’. However, with the decline of Tasmanian Devils, the number of cats and foxes are increasing and the Eastern Bettong may not be safe for much longer.
In 2012, The Woodlands and Wetlands Trust along with Australian National University and the ACT Government went down to Tasmania and translocated 35 individuals to Canberra. The bettong population exploded due to an abundance of food and no feral predators. These days there are over 100 bouncing around in Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary.
The largest of all 5 bettong species is the Eastern Bettong getting up to 2.2 kilograms, but weighing on average 1.7kg. They are a part of the Potoroidae family meaning they’re closely related to potoroos but also other macropods (big-footed marsupials) such as kangaroos and wallabies. Bettongs are quite different to other macropods in the way that they create nests. The nests are spherical structures with a side entrance. They are well camouflaged and constructed using nesting material collected by the animal, and transported in bundles held in their semi-prehensile tails. They are nocturnal and this is where they spend their days sleeping.
The Eastern Bettong is classified as an ecosystem engineer – meaning they provide important ecosystem services. Like other bettongs, and potoroos, it digs for its food, creating many small cylindrical holes. These promote the regeneration of some plants, and diggings contribute to loosening and turnover of soil. This in turn improves soil condition and water infiltration, plus, promotes the breakdown of organic matter. Most of the fungi eaten by the Eastern Bettong are mycorrhiza-forming species known as truffles. As a result of feeding on their fruiting bodies, they disperse the truffle spores in its faeces. As a sweet treat, the bettongs in Mulligans Flat are often seen licking sap from the acacia trees.