Bettongs Are Cute, Love Truffles And Are In Big Trouble

The little Northern Bettong is in big trouble and conservationists warn it's part of an "extinction crisis".

Most people have never heard of a Bettong and that's a problem.

"It's probably not well known and that's part of the issue," WWF Australia's senior manager for species conservation Tim Cronin told 10 daily.

"If we don't know about them, how can we care about them?"

Only 2500 of the rat-kangaroos are left in the wild and the species is quickly headed towards 'critically endangered' status.

A five year study led by WWF Australia has found Northern Bettongs now only occupy 145 square kilometres in Queensland's wet tropics. When Europeans arrived, they could be found along a 1000-kilometre stretch of coastline.

"The number of distinct populations have decreased by 50 percent - they could only be located in two distinct populations," the study concluded.

A Northern Bettong (WWF-Australia)

The two populations were found at Lamb Range and Mt Spurgeon.

Unless more work is done to address predators including wild cats and feral pigs,  Bettongs could be extinct at Lamb Range within a decade.

WWF recommended urgent work be done to protect and restore native habitats, including open woodlands and forests.

It also said a captive breeding program needs to be considered.

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"If we continue as business as usual it's likely to fall of a cliff," Cronin said.

"If we lose the Bettong, it's not going to be the last for sure."

The Bettong has expensive taste, surviving off underground truffles which they sniff out then dig up and eat.

Bettongs enjoy a diet of truffle (Image: WWF Australia)

The Northern Bettong isn't the only species in trouble in what WWF has called an 'extinction crisis'.

"We've lost something like 30 mammal species since European settlement," Cronin said.

A Senate Committee has been examining 'Australia’s faunal extinction crisis' since June. Its final report was due on December 4 but it was given an extension until May 29 next year.

If only giving the Bettong more time was so simple.