Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Desert mammals and Fire

In the 1930s and 1940s over much of inland Australia's arid zone the Aboriginal People were moved to mission stations and settlements to make way for agriculture on their former hunting grounds. Not long after the removal wildfires began to occur after good wet seasons. In the dry season following the wet seasons of 1973/1974 vast tracts of country were burnt out. Fires in the summer of 1974/1975 burnt out 120 million Ha.

At the time the Aboriginal People were moved from the land there were a number of desert mammals known to be common. By the time the first detailed scientific study of them was carried out in the 1970s many had disappeared completely. They had flourished during many thousands of years of hunting by the Aboriginal People and the regular burning, also for thousands of years, but very soon after the regular burning was replaced by less frequent wildfires they had gone. Some of those that have gone extinct are Pig-footed Bandicoot (Chaeropus ecaudatus), Desert Bandicoot (Perameles eremiana), Lesser Bilby (Macrotis leucura), Gould's Mouse (Pseudomys gouldii), Alice Springs Mouse (Pseudomys fieldi), Short-tailed Hopping-mouse (Notomys amplus), Long-tailed Hopping-mouse (Notomys longicaudatus), Greater Stick-nest Rat (Leporillus conditor), Central Rock-rat (Zyzomys pedunculatus), and Desert Rat-kangaroo (Caloprymnus campestris).

Some that are endangered are Western-barred Bandicoot (Parameles bouganville), Golden Bandicoot (Isoodon auratus), Sandhill Dunnart (Sminthopsis psammophila), Long-tailed Dunnart (Sminthopsis  longicaudata), Kowari (Dasyuroides byrnei), Bilby (Macrotis lagotis), Numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus), Western Quoll (Dasyurus geoffroii), Red-tailed Phascogale (Phascogale calura), Pebble-mound Mouse (Pseudomys chapmani), Desert Mouse (Pseudomys desertor), Dusky-hopping Mouse (Notomys amplus), Lesser Stick-nest Rat (Leporillus apicalis).

Aboriginal Australia

Sources & Further reading

  1. Penny Van Oosterzee, 1993, The Centre - The Natural history of Australia's Desert Regions, Reed Australia.


Author: M. H. Monroe
Last updated: 30/09/2011

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