New island home for native water rats

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New Island Home For Native Water Rats

Whiteman Park’s goal to increase local biodiversity was given a boost this week with the release of two native water rats onto the islands of Mussel Pool.

The native water rat (Hydromys chysogaster) is Australia’s largest native rodent and can still be found living along Bennett Brook South, which flows between Mussel Pool and the Swan River.

Whiteman Park manager Steve Lowe said that the water rats’ reintroduction works towards the Park’s goal to restore as many native animal species back into the Park as the habitat will allow.

“Whilst the water rats may not be the cutest of native animals, their reintroduction means that we are returning a top order predator into the food chain around Mussel Pool,” he said.

“The public can identify the native rats by the white tip on their tail, although being nocturnal most visitors are unlikely to get to see them in their new homes.”

This is part of the first reintroduction of the native water rat in Australia, which, if successful, will lead to further translocations with the aim to re-establish secure populations of the animal on the Swan Coastal Plain and across the Darling Scarp.

Other animals from the same group have been translocated to the Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s Karakamia reserve in Chidlow in the Perth hills.

“It is exciting to be working with the other high-calibre conservation organisations on this project: Perth Zoo, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and the Department of Parks and Wildlife [formerly DEC],” said Mr Lowe.

As a key indicator of a healthy wetland system, the native rats are an important species to have back in the Park, and their reintroduction ties in with current rehabilitation plans for the Mussel Pool ecosystem.

Fact File

  • Water rats are one of Australia’s oldest, shyest and least known native mammals.
  • Water rats are a top order predator in our freshwater and coastal marine systems.
  • Importantly, they are a key indicator of a healthy wetland system, and are a very old part of Australian mammal fauna.
  • They only have a short life span of around three years.
  • Although not classified as threatened, water rats are classified as a priority 4 species in WA, and require monitoring.
  • Threats to water rats include habitat loss, increasing salinity levels, water pollution and predation from introduced predators, particularly cats and foxes.
  • They are one of the few animals that know how to safely eat cane toads, which have poisonous glands deadly to most would-be predators.

For more information contact Whiteman Park on 9209 6000