Join Field Ecologist Chagi as she explains why The Australian Wildlife Conservancy and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service are working together to restore ten regionally extinct mammals to Mallee Cliffs National Park.


Mallee Cliffs National Park is on Latje Latje and Barkindji Country and sovereignty was never ceded. We acknowledge their ancestors, past, present, and emerging, and their deep relationships with the land and the waters.

Quick Overview

Australia holds a world title that we definitely should not be proud of – the leader in mammal extinctions. A whopping 39 mammals have been driven to extinction in Australia since European colonisation. The main causes are the destruction of key habitats and death due to feral predators such as wild cats and foxes.

Reintroductions of animals into feral-predator-free fenced areas (meaning no cats or foxes inside the fence) help prevent species from going extinct by giving them a chance to live without external pressures. But what exactly is a species reintroduction? It’s when animals are deliberately introduced to areas from which they’d been lost, with the aim of establishing a new population.

Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s (AWC) reintroduction projects are essential for fighting the extinction crisis facing our native mammals. There have been 19 highly threatened and regionally extinct mammals reintroduced across 11 of AWC’s feral-predator-free and feral-predator-reduced areas.


AWC’s reintroduction programs across Australia | Map thanks to Hannah Sheppard Brennand, Australian Wildlife Conservancy

Mallee Cliffs National Park

Inside Mallee Cliffs National Park is one of the largest feral-proof fences in the Southern Hemisphere, which is the site of a ground-breaking mammal reintroduction program.

The program is managed under a partnership between AWC and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, where mammals which have gone extinct in their home regions are reintroduced into the 9,570ha feral-predator-free fenced area.


A section of Mallee Cliffs National Park’s 9,570ha feral-predator free fence / Photo thanks to Brad Leue, Australian Wildlife Conservancy


Mallee Cliffs is located in south-west NSW, about 30km east of Mildura. Established as a national park in 1977, the area covers 57,969ha of grassy plains, spinifex-covered sand dunes, and Casuarina woodlands. These habitats protect a diverse range of threatened and declining species, giving the park significant conservation value.

Meet the Species

Ten mammal species are planned to be reintroduced into Mallee Cliffs National Park. Let’s get to know them better!


1. Greater Bilby (Macrotis lagotis)


Bilby at Mallee Cliffs National Park / Photo thanks to Wayne Lawler, Australian Wildlife Conservancy



Bilbies are easily recognised by their iconic large pink ears, pointed snouts, and black and white tails. They can burrow up to 3m underground with their strong forelimbs and clawed toes. One bilby can turn over 20 tonnes of topsoil per year just by digging – earning them the title of ecosystem engineer. Bilbies can live in all sorts of habitats where seeds, fungi, and insects are plentiful.

AWC’s Role

Bilbies used to be very common in semi-arid and arid regions of Australia, inhabiting around 70% of the mainland. Their populations reduced majorly after European colonisation as they were being eaten by feral cats and foxes.

According to AWC’s latest Annual Bilby Census carried out in April 2023, AWC protects an estimated population of 3,315 bilbies across six sanctuaries – this is double the 1,480 population estimate in 2022! Along with Mallee Cliffs National Park, bilbies have been reintroduced to the Scotia (NSW), Yookamurra (SA), Mt Gibson (WA) and Newhaven (NT) wildlife sanctuaries and the Pilliga State Conservation Area (NSW). The Pilliga is the second site where AWC is working in partnership with NSW Parks and Wildlife Service to reintroduce regionally extinct mammals.

Fun Fact

Another species of bilby – poorly named the Lesser Bilby (Macrotis leucura) – existed until the 1960s, recognisable by its smaller size in comparison to the Greater Bilby.

It’s now presumed to be extinct – not a fun fact! Today the AWC uses the Lesser Bilby as its logo to remind us of the responsibility we share in being caretakers for the land so our native flora and fauna can survive and thrive.


2. Greater Stick-nest Rat (Leporillus conditor)


Greater Stick-nest Rat at Mallee Cliffs National Park / Photo thanks to Brad Leue, Australian Wildlife Conservancy


Stickies, as we affectionately call them, are a native rodent about the size of a guinea pig. They have yellow-brown to grey fluffy fur and cute large, rounded ears and dark eyes. They like living in shrubby areas with lots of tasty succulents.

AWC’s Role

Stickies were once found across semi-arid regions in southern Australia. By the 1930s they were restricted to two islands off SA’s coast, as they were easy targets for feral predators on the mainland.

AWC reintroduced 40 Stickies to Mallee Cliffs National Park in 2020 – the first time in NSW in over 160 years – where they’re doing well without the pressures of cats and foxes. Stickies were also reintroduced to Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary (WA).

Fun Fact

As their full length name suggests, Greater Stick-nest rats will build huge communal nests out of dead sticks. A team effort is needed to drag branches to a central site – usually a shrub or tree trunk – and these branches are then chewed down to size. The sticks are fixed together by their sticky pee, which acts as a glue to hold the nest together (yeah, gross!). The nests are always being renovated by the communities over generations.


3. Numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus)


Numbat at Dryandra Woodland National Park / Photo thanks to Jessica Holding


There’s no way of mistaking a Numbat for any other animal. The amazing pattern of white bands across their rusty brown and grey-black fur, paired with the Zorro mask on their face, make them so unique-looking. They’re small animals, weighing between 280g and 700g. Numbats can be found in quite a few habitat types, including eucalypt woodlands and  spinifex sandplains. They often shelter inside hollow logs.

AWC’s Role

Numbats were once found all across semi-arid and arid Australia. By the 1980s, only two subpopulations in WA were left as the majority of numbats had been killed by feral cats and foxes.

Up to 40% of the entire Numbat population is protected in AWC sanctuaries, including Yookamurra (SA), Mt Gibson (WA), Scotia (NSW), and  Mallee Cliffs National Park. When local conditions are good, Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary holds the largest population of Numbats in Australia.

Fun Fact

There are too many fun facts about Numbats! They’re so strange that they’re in a taxonomic family of their own. They’re one of two Australian marsupials that are active during the day (the other is the Musky Rat-kangaroo).

With a sticky tongue that can extend at least 5cm, Numbats eat around 20,000 termites each day. Unlike many other marsupials, Numbats don’t have a pouch. Instead, the females have a crimped skinfold over their teats which the Numbubs (unofficial name!) latch on to.


4. Brush-tailed Bettong (Bettongia penicillata)


Brush-tailed Bettong being released into Mallee Cliffs National Park / Photo thanks to David Sickerdick, Australian Wildlife Conservancy



Brush-tailed Bettongs are named for the dark coloured brush at the end of their tail. They hop around at night, digging for fungi and tubers. Brush-tailed Bettongs can store food in their cheek pouches, and help to disperse fungal spores and seeds. They’re found in spinifex grasslands, shrubby areas, and mallee habitats. They sleep in concealed nests during the day.

AWC’s Role

Before European invasion, the distribution of Brush-tailed Bettongs covered most of southern Australia. I think you know what’s coming next… Brush-tailed bettongs were targets for cats and foxes which caused their populations to dramatically decrease. After large-scale fox baiting during the 1980s, Brush-tailed Bettong populations made a comeback in WA, but have declined again – likely because of disease and habitat clearing.

AWC protects Brush-tailed Bettongs in five feral-predator-free safe havens: Karakamia (WA), Scotia (NSW), Yookamurra (SA), Mt Gibson (WA), and Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuaries (NT). Brush-tailed Bettongs were reintroduced to Mallee Cliffs National Park in 2021. AWC also contributes to the national Brush-tailed Bettong Recovery Team.

Fun Fact

Brush-tailed Bettong’s brushy tails are prehensile, meaning they can act as a fifth limb. They use their tails to pick up sticks and grass to build their well-hidden nests.


5. Red-tailed Phascogale (Phascogale calura)


Red-tailed Phascogale at Mallee Cliffs National Park / Photo thanks to Brad Leue, Australian Wildlife Conservancy



Another animal named after its cool tail! Red-tailed Phascogales are small, feisty marsupials with a pointy face and a red tail topped with a black brush of hair. The males are much bigger than the females (68g versus 48g). Red-tailed Phascogales live in tree hollows and can leap up to 2m between trees.

AWC’s Role

Red-tailed Phascogales used to be found throughout most of arid and semi-arid Australia. Nowadays they exist in the few remaining patches of suitable habitat left in WA’s Wheatbelt Region.

Red-tailed Phascogales have been reintroduced to Mt Gibson (WA) and Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuaries. They were released into Mallee Cliffs National Park in 2020 where they’ve made homes in the Casuarina trees.

Fun Fact

Male Red-tailed Phascogales live fast and die young. The pure exhaustion they experience after mating season in winter kills them off  – meaning they only live for about 11 months. Females, on the other hand,  live up to 36 months and can have up to three litters of young during that time.


6. Mitchell’s Hopping Mouse (Notomys mitchellii)


Mitchell’s Hopping Mouse being released into Mallee Cliffs National Park / Photo thanks to Daniel Burton, Australian Wildlife Conservancy



Mitchell’s Hopping Mouse may be a rodent, but they’re the cutest kind. With long, delicate back legs they hop around mallee shrublands and sandy dunes with ease. As a nocturnal animal, Mitchell’s Hopping Mouse avoids the sun by hiding in connected burrows in the sand dunes.

AWC’s Role

Mitchell’s Hopping Mice used to live across NSW, SA, and VIC. Because of their habitat being cleared for agriculture, over 50% of their original range has been destroyed and they’re not found in the wild in NSW anymore.

In April, 2021, 58 Mitchell’s Hopping Mice were reintroduced to Mallee Cliffs National Park. They were collected from a breeding program at Monarto Safari Park in SA, in collaboration with Zoos SA.

Fun Fact

Mitchell’s Hopping Mice have a long tail with a brush on the tip which helps them balance when travelling at quick speeds.


7. Bridled Nailtail Wallaby (Onychogalea fraenata)


Bridled Nailtail Wallaby in the Pilliga State Conservation Area / Photo thanks to Joey Clarke, Australian Wildlife Conservancy



Bridled Nailtail wallabies are recognisable by the beautiful white markings that form a ‘bridle’ from the back of their neck to behind each forearm. They’re a medium-sized wallaby, weighing up to 8kg.

These wallabies have a small ‘nail’ at the end of their tail, that’s mainly covered by fur. Bridled Nailtails are mostly nocturnal and prefer a solo lifestyle.

AWC’s Role

Bridled Nailtails were once jumping around woodlands and shrubby habitats throughout semi-arid Australia. They were thought to be extinct for over 30 years, until they were spotted on a property in central QLD in 1973.

Populations reduced dramatically as they were hunted for pelts and had to compete with domestic animals for food.

AWC protects Bridled Nailtails within Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary (NSW) and the Pilliga (NSW). Bridled Nailtails will be reintroduced into Mallee Cliffs National Park later this year.

Fun Fact

Bridled Nailtails are one of three wallaby species that have a ‘nail-tail’. The other two species include the Crescent Nailtail wallaby (thought to be extinct) and the Northern Nailtail wallaby (still relatively widespread in northern Australia). It’s a mystery as to why these wallabies have a nail on their tail.


8. Burrowing Bettong (Bettongia lesueur)


Burrowing Bettong being released into Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary / Photo thanks to Brad Leue, Australian Wildlife Conservancy



Burrowing Bettongs are small, hopping marsupials that feed on roots and fungi. They can breed at any time of the year but this varies in response to rainfall.

AWC’s Role

Burrowing Bettongs used to live across south, central, and west parts of Australia in arid and semi-arid areas. Now, the remaining populations are on a handful of small islands off the western coast. Cats and foxes are the main reason Burrowing Bettongs have disappeared off the mainland, along with being hunted and poisoned by early pastoralists.

Burrowing Bettong populations have been established by AWC at many reintroduction sites including Faure Island and  Scotia (NSW), Yookamurra (SA), and Newhaven (NT) Wildlife Sanctuaries. They’re planned to be reintroduced to Mallee Cliffs National Park this year. AWC also contributes to the Shark Bay Marsupials Recovery Team in WA.

Fun Fact

Burrowing Bettongs are the only macropods that build their own burrows to shelter in. The burrows can vary from simple tunnels to intricate networks with lots of entrances and pathways. As a social species, these burrow systems can house more than 20 bettongs!


9. Western Barred Bandicoot (Perameles bougainville)


Western Barred Bandicoot on Faure Island / Photo thanks to Wayne Lawler, Australian Wildlife Conservancy



Western Barred bandicoots are the smallest species of bandicoots, weighing up to 220g. They’re light grey in colour and – as their name suggests – they have a couple of dark bars across their backsides. They’re solitary, nocturnal animals that eat invertebrates, plant matter, and sometimes, small vertebrates.

AWC’s Role

Western Barred bandicoots were once common in southern arid regions in Australia. But they went extinct from the mainland around the 1940s, only remaining on small islands in Shark Bay, WA. Populations on the mainland were butchered because of, you guessed it, feral cats and foxes.

AWC has reintroduced Western Barred bandicoots to Faure Island in Shark Bay and the population is doing well. AWC plans to reintroduce them into the Pilliga (NSW) and Mallee Cliffs National Parks in September this year, and Mt Gibson (WA) at a later date.

Fun Fact

The taxonomy of Western Barred bandicoots has been revised a lot in recent studies. The Western Barred bandicoot used to be considered to have several subspecies that spanned across Australia. A recent taxonomic revision has suggested splitting the Western Barred bandicoot into six separate species – of which the only surviving taxon is Perameles bougainville.


10. Western Quoll (Dasyurus geoffroii)


Western Quoll at Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary / Photo thanks to Brad Leue, Australian Wildlife Conservancy



Western quolls are about the size of a cat, with brown fur and white spots. They’re loners with large home ranges, because of their carnivorous feeding habits. Western quolls are one of Australia’s native predators, hunting at night to feed on birds, reptiles, and small mammals.

AWC’s Role

Western quolls were once found across 70% of Australia’s mainland. Sadly again, feral cats and foxes are the main reason for the massive decline in their populations. Illegal shooting and poisoning are also responsible for the loss of Western quolls.

Western quolls were reintroduced into the Mt Gibson (WA) Wildlife Sanctuary in April this year. They’ll be the last of the 10 mammals reintroduced into Mallee Cliffs National Park once populations of the other animals are stable.

Fun Fact

Western quoll females are known to mate with multiple different male partners during breeding season. Baby quolls from the same litter can have different dads!



Absolutely loving my job as a Field Ecologist for the Australian Wildlife Conservancy at Mallee Cliffs National Park / Photo thanks to Grace Hornstra, Australian Wildlife Conservancy


If you’d like to support effective conservation of these threatened species and help conserve Australia’s natural environment, consider donating to the AWC.

Read more: 5 Ways You Can Protect Our Wild Places