Urgent action to save the KI dunnart from extinction


The Kangaroo Island dunnart (Sminthopsis aitkeni) is a special little marsupial the size of your hand, weighing less than an AA battery! Restricted to Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia, headway was being made into its rescue from extinction before the December 2019 fires decimated much of its known habitat.

Since the bushfires, dunnarts have been captured on camera in remnant patches of vegetation not fully lost in the fire. Sadly though, the outlook is bad, with numbers of surviving individuals still not known, with estimates ranging from just 50 through to the low hundreds.

With this devastating blow the latest in a series of impacts for this endangered species, we are working with our on-ground partners Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife to address the loss of habitat and associated threats.

This project is a continuation of many years of work. To read the key outcomes from previous work, please visit Finding the elusive endangered Kangaroo Island dunnart.

The Project



To date, FAME have used funding from this project for:

  • Continued financial support of on-ground partners Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife (Pat Hodgens and Heidi Groffen) to allow them to focus on the critical in situ work required

  • Funding of a helicopter to view the fire scar and locate remnant patches of KI dunnart known habitat

  • Deployment of a drone to identify feral predators and possible dunnarts

  • Coordinated feral management with the assistance of Sporting Shooters South Australia in the area known to have surviving dunnarts

  • Long-term revegetation of affected areas

  • Purchase of an additional ten (10) cameras and accessories for use in monitoring the dunnart population across the island

  • Purchase of two (2) pairs of thermal binoculars to assist with the detection of dunnarts at night for identifying surviving populations

  • Revegetation of 10ha of key dunnart territory in the Western River Refuge on private local land holders (Jamie, Lib and Andy Doube).

Kangaroo Island dunnarts on private land

In addition to the Western River Refuge conservation activities and North West Conservation surveys, another 21 private properties within KI dunnart potential habitat are partnering with KI LfW, with an additional 32 survey sites being monitored. FAME’s funding has assisted with this through the deployment of the ten cameras, which help the team understand what suitable habitat is available, ongoing threats to KI dunnarts, and where restoration activities are required.

This survey effort includes the Church Road KI dunnart properties, both within severely burnt landscapes. Three monitoring sites have been set with no dunnarts detected at all.

Six shelter tunnels have also been built within the burnt landscape, with monitoring cameras inside and out to detect species utilisation of the shelters. Dunnarts have also been detected in a number of tunnels.

Revegetation of critical habitat

Presently 3,500 she-oaks (Allocasuarina verticillata casuarinacea) and 4,000 biodiverse seedlings have been ordered through the Kangaroo Island Native Plant Nursery for this winter’s planting.

This will provide much-needed cover for the dunnarts (and many other species) moving forward.

Thank you to Landcare Australia who donated 1000 biodegradable tree guards to support the work.

Moving forward

Following this first phase, FAME’s role will move to the funding of continued feral management, further revegetation of key dunnart territories (some of the area has scrub which will organically revegetate) and on-ground costs.

Before the bushfires, KI LfW had identified 10 private properties as known dunnart sites, and post-fires this has expanded to 12. In partnership with the team on the ground, we will assist the revegetation of these 12 areas - equating to some 8,000ha of viable habitat for this precious species.

The Project:

The Kangaroo Island dunnart is endemic to Kangaroo Island, South Australia. With the number of individuals remaining believed to be in the low hundreds, they are one of Australia’s most endangered species.

The Kangaroo Island species of dunnart is a small, dark sooty-grey coloured member of the Sminthopsis genus. They are nocturnal and their diet consists primarily of invertebrates likes ants and spiders, however scorpions, beetles, and grasshoppers are also eaten.

This project is a continuation of many years of work. To read the OKR's (objectives and key results) visit: Finding the elusive endangered Kangaroo Island dunnart.

This project is a significant step towards saving the Kangaroo Island dunnart from extinction by controlling feral cats, establishing a refuge behind predator-proof fencing and surveying and monitoring surviving populations.

Urgency and Action:


It is grim - opposite are photos taken of the fire scar from the helicopter, funded by our Bushfire Fund, where our project partners Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife were able to view from the air and locate as many remnant patches across western Kangaroo Island in the hope of finding areas where critically endangered dunnarts and other key species could be residing.

Scientists have given the Kangaroo Island dunnart a 22% chance of becoming extinct in the next 20 years unless action is taken to address threats. Implementation of this project may be the difference in the survival or extinction of the Kangaroo Island dunnart.

Key actions for FAME include, but are not limited to:

  1. Fund continued feral management

  2. Replace vital survey and thermal equipment

  3. Assist with funding for vehicle hire

  4. Ensure funding for vital revegetation in key Dunnart territorial ares (some of the area has scrub which will organically revegetate)

  5. Other on-ground costs associated with the project.

The Kangaroo Island dunnart is threatened with extinction from bushfires and feral predators.

The nonprofit organisation Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife Association Incorporated will implement this project. They have a vision that by 2021, in partnership with private Kangaroo Island landholders, they will manage 50,000 hectares of private lands for Kangaroo Island Dunnart conservation, with a longer-term vision to downgrade the species' EPBC Act and South Australian State listing from Endangered to Vulnerable by 2029.

This project follows an earlier collaboration between FAME and Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife Association Incorporated on the successful Finding the Kangaroo Island Dunnart project.


  • 24 JUNE 2019; We need your help to save the Kangaroo Island Dunnart from extinction. Read more: Project release

  • 6 JANUARY 2020; The devastating impact of fires on Kangaroo Island. Read more: Project update

  • 12 JANUARY 2020; Bushfire Appeal Expenditure: Kangaroo Island Dunnart. Read more: Project update

  • 18 JANUARY 2020; A little light in a somewhat grim landscape. Read more: Project update

Images supplied by Jody Gates at the South Australian Department of Environment, Water, and Natural Resources.

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