Researchers have found a treatment for a deadly mange condition infecting endangered quenda populations in Perth’s southern suburbs.
Quenda’s are native rat-like marsupials, also known as southwestern brown bandicoots, that were once widely distributed throughout Australia’s coastal areas, but are now found in isolated south-western pockets of bushland.
In recent years, wildlife experts have discovered that a Sarcoptic mange – a mite that burrows into the skin leaving scabs and open wounds – is spreading through populations in the Perth suburbs of Roleystone and Jandakot.
Scientists think it is spread to the animals from pest species, such as foxes, and Murdoch University epidemiologist Dr Bethany Jackson said that the animals suffer and sometimes die if not treated.
But wildlife volunteers from the Darling Range Wildlife Shelter said treatments more commonly used in dogs infected with mange, such as topical oils, supplements and worming drugs, were proving affective in quendas.
The problem for carers now is stopping reinfection in animals re-released to the wild.
“The drug kills the mite, and the vitamin E oil works for [to treat] irritation,” Dr Jackon says.
“The treatments from the Darling Range wildlife Centre seem to be really helping,” Dr Jackson says.
“The reality is that treating a population is challenging.”
Parasitic mange was first discovered in Perth’s quendas about three years ago but Dr Jackson says the disease is spreading.
Alongside development and predation from introduced pest species, the disease poses a threat to the endangered bandicoots and according to the Department of Parks and Wildlife, populations have been in decline since the 1990s.
“They can recover well [from mange] with the right treatment, but once they’re treated and released, we don’t know if they’ll be re-infected,” the Darling Range spokeswoman said.
Sarcoptic mange occurs in seven other Australian natives, such as wombats and koalas, and was brought to Australia by European settlers about 200 years ago.
“Our priority is to find out where it comes from, and which quendas are more at risk,” Dr Jackson says.
“When you know the pattern [of the disease], you get a better understanding of how to manage it.”
The Darling Range Wildlife Shelter urges the public to report any cases of mange or invasive species they see to their local wildlife shelter.