Mammal Focus – Long Footed Potoroo

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Long Footed Potoroo (Potorous longipes)

The mountainous, moist subtropical rainforests of SE Victoria are a mysterious place. These areas hold mammals few have ever seen in a region few have ever explored. Imagine this strange scene. Late at night, on a road through the greater Snowy River area, somewhat to the north of the Princess Highway of Mallacoota, a small hare-sized marsupial bounces across the road. This is the Long Footed Potoroo, a mysterious, diminutive relative of the kangaroo and one of Australia’s most interesting, yet least known, creatures.

The Long Footed Potoroo dwells in the moist montane and coastal forests of SE Victoria and NW NSW in the heights of the Great Dividing Range in far Southeast Australia. Heavily nocturnal, there have only been precious few photographs ever recorded from remote cameras, let alone sightings. These creatures dwell on the wet, leaf-covered forest floor, foraging under the cover of darkness. Unfortunately, this wonderful little marsupial has been in danger ever since its recent discovery in 1967. Threatened by habitat loss and deforestation, as well as competition from destructive feral hogs, populations of these rare mammals have declined ever since. The species has now split to a sparing few populations, the bulk of which occur in the region north from Orbost, between the Princess Highway, Brown Mountain Forestry Reserve, and Snowy River National Park. This region of Victoria, known as East Gippsland, is the Long Footed Potoroo’s worldwide population stronghold.

For those interested in observing the Long Footed Potoroo, they must be prepared for long, featureless, sleepless nights of driving on isolated, unpaved mountain roads. Roads between the Princess Highway and Murrungower (Mt Raymond Road) Road are a possibility, as are tracks and trails in the Brown Mountain Forestry Reserve. Quiet night hiking in the latter locale could also be successful.  This area though is also favored habitat for a closely related, but much more common species, the Long Footed Potoroo as well, so good views and careful identification are needed for a properly verified sighting.

Although it may not seem worth the hardship at first, those who are adventurous and tough enough to spend a few nights driving these isolated mountain roads could be rewarded with a sighting of one of the world’s least known, most elusive, and most wonderful inhabitants.

I hope to visit Australia soon and try for this enigmatic little marsupial in the near future.

(Image from: http://www.wilderness.org.au/images/long-footed-potoroos-max-herford-300.jpg/image)

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