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Revised draft A Guide to the Use of Australian Native Mammals in Biomedical Sciences submission

B. Please provide contact details

Personal information provided, e.g. contact details, will only be used for the purposes of developing resources relevant to this consultation document and will not be disclosed outside of members of NHMRC staff and NHMRC Committees. Such Information will not be used or disclosed for any other purpose, without prior written consent.

Organisation Name: 
Department of Environment and Conservation
E. Specific comments
Specific comments: 

I have reviewed the text in the section on the Numbat and have pasted a corrected version below.  Please contact me if a tracked changes version of the text is required.


The numbat is a small (up to 750g) diurnal marsupial, with a highly specialised diet – feeding only on termites. Once widespread, it experienced a major decline in distribution after European settlement and is now confined to restricted sites in the forests and woodlands of south-west Western Australia. Research on this species should not be commenced without considerable consultation with experienced wildlife researchers and zoo experts from Western Australia. For more details of the species basic biology see Friend (2008).





Natural Diet

Numbat, (Myrmecobius fasciatus)

Vulnerable under EPBC Act

South-west WA

Highly specialised: feed on termites


Capture, Handling, Marking for Identification, Transport

Numbats are not easy to catch using conventional trapping methods, so seek expert assistance/guidance. One approach is to scan for animals using binoculars, pursue them on foot until they enter shelter, such as a hollow log, then retrieve them by hand. They should be placed in soft calico bags or pillow cases for handling and short-distance transport. Some animals may be particularly nervous, thus handler training and experience is important. For longer distance transport they should be placed, in their holding bag, into wooden transport boxes (350 x 400 x 200mm) with adequate padding, such as seagrass and holes in the sides to facilitate air flow. Transport should be at night or in the early morning to avoid heat stress (and if temperatures are high, an air-conditioned vehicle is required) and they should not be transported for periods in excess of 24 hours. It is very important to seek expert advice before commencing any studies on this species.


Numbats have individual banding patterns on their dorsal surface that can be used for identification. PIT tags, implanted subcutaneously between the scapulae, are also suitable for marking individuals.


Captive Husbandry

Numbats are not easily kept in captivity because they must be supplied with live termites to keep them in good health (but see also captive diets in Power and Monaghan, 2003) – seek advice from Perth Zoo before commencing captive research on this species. In addition, they are regarded as solitary in the wild, thus should be held individually (or in pairs for breeding) unless very large enclosures are available. Numbats can be held in wire (25 x 12mm weldmesh) enclosures measuring 5 x 3m (x 2m high), but these must have a fully enclosed roof as they climb very well and will escape. The mesh floor should be buried beneath approximately one metre depth of soil to allow them to burrow. Enclosures should have sun exposure to allow the animals to bask, but should also have adequate shade (e.g. using 90% shade-cloth) to protect them from heat extremes – they become inactive at temperatures over 300C. They also retreat to den sites when it is cold and wet. Hollow logs and nest boxes should be provided as den sites with suitable nest material provided. Wherever possible, additional cover such as branches, tussocks, and shade cloth on lower sections of the wire of cage walls should be provided, because visual barriers are important for this species. Enclosures should be cleaned regularly. For more detailed information see Power and Monaghan (2003) but before considering research on this species, consult wildlife experts and Perth Zoo.


Routine Sample/Data Collection

Collection of blood samples may be difficult, seek expert advice from Perth Zoo veterinarians. Standard data should include body mass (to the nearest gram), gender, coat condition, general behaviour (activity and demeanour), approximate age (based on morphometrics etc) and reproductive status: pouch condition, number and size of pouch-young.


Anaesthesia, Analgesia and Sedation

Gaseous anaesthesia can be achieved using isoflurane in oxygen using a face mask: 5% for induction, 1.5 - 3% for maintenance, with an oxygen flow rate of 1L/min. Zoletil (tiletamine/zolazepam: 5-9 mg/kg body weight injected IM) can be used in the field, however “topping-up” with Zoletil is not recommended.


Humane Killing

Injection with an overdose of sodium pentobarbitone (IV, IP or IC), after heavy sedation/anaesthesia (for example with Zoletil 10mg/kg, IM).


Health Issues, Disease Control and Zoonoses

Very few serious disease issues have been identified in numbats, however, see Vitali and Monaghan (2008).


Specific Breeding Requirements

Numbats do not breed well unless specific appropriate diet and captive husbandry conditions are provided. Consult experts, in particular Perth Zoo.


Institutions and research groups with captive colonies or specialised expertise Institutions


Perth Zoo

Perth, Western Australia

08 9474 0444





[personal information removed by ONHMRC]

[personal information removed by ONHMRC]

Fauna Conservation Program

WA Department of Conservation and Environment

120 Albany Hwy

Albany WA 6330

[personal information removed by ONHMRC]

[personal information removed by ONHMRC]


References for numbats


Bester, A. and Rusten, K. (2009) Trial translocation of the numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus) into arid Australia. Australian Mammalogy 31, 9-16.


Friend, J.A. (2008) Numbat. Pp. 162-165 in: The Mammals of Australia, 3rd edition. Van Dyck, S., and R. Strahan (ed.s). Reed New Holland, Sydney.


Ladds, P. (2009) Pathology of Australian native wildlife. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Victoria.


Power, V-L, and Monaghan, C. (2003). Numbats. Pp. 99-125 in: Australian Mammals: Biology and Captive Management. Jackson, S. ed. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Victoria.


Vitali, S. and Monaghan, C. (2008). Numbats. Pp. 383-394 in: Vogelnest, L & Woods, R (eds) Medicine of Australian Mammals. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Victoria.


Page reviewed: 24 April, 2014