Conservationists say the survival of a bandicoot west of Port Fairy in a pocket of forest flanked by farmland and plantations is nothing short of “miraculous”.
With just a handful of members but the backing of some corporate cash, a group of south-west volunteers is hoping to bring the southern brown bandicoot back from the brink of extinction.
They have reasons to be encouraged. A small 31-hectare forest in St Helens, north of Yambuk, has proven to be an oasis for the marsupials, which commonly fall prey to foxes.
Their mission, led by the Basalt to Bay Landcare Network, is to get leads on where else the tiny creature may have been spotted in the past.
The volunteers are asking farmers, campers or anyone who has spent time in the bush near Yambuk, Orford Bessiebelle or Tarrone to contact them about any sightings.
“We’re trying to identify where people have seen them in the past or where they’ve seen them now,” network member Lisette Mill said.
“We simply don’t have enough volunteers or resources to go out into the areas they might be.
“There are people who have lived in these areas or who may have been camping at Mount Eccles who might have seen something.”
Resembling a rat, the bandicoot can be picked out by the round rear shape of its body.
Wind farm operator Pacific Hydro has also paid for fox baiting to begin around the St Helens reserve early next year in a bid to allow the bandicoots to expand out of the forest into nearby farms and grassland.
“If they’re not getting picked off by the foxes they do breed,” Ms Mill said. “They can expand out of the reserve.”
Anyone who believes they have spotted the bandicoot in the region can contact Ms Mill on 0408 712 713.