A survey of two islands in the Kimberley has uncovered new populations of native animals, including threatened species.
The Department of Parks and Wildlife and Balanggarra Rangers conducted an 18-day survey on Lacrosse Island, Buckle Head and a nearby mainland site.
A wide range of species were found, including the threatened golden-backed tree rat and a healthy population of the endangered northern quoll on Buckle Head.
A bandicoot was caught on camera on Buckle Head, but it is unclear if it was a threatened golden bandicoot, or the more common northern brown.
Principal research scientist at the department Lesley Gibson said the discovery of the tree rat was fantastic.
“It’s an amazing animal, and its distribution has shrunk quite considerably over the years,” she said.
“It’s believed … various threatening processes on the mainland in terms of fire and introduced animals have had an impact on its population and also on its habitat.
“It’s actually quite a beautiful looking animal and the fur is really quite soft, so it’s a very fragile looking animal I would say.”
The common rock rat was recorded on both islands, and the water rat on Lacrosse Island.
New species of snails were also discovered.
“During our Kimberley island survey we discovered 80-odd species of land snails that are completely new to science,” Dr Gibson said.
“It tells us the Kimberley is a hot spot for land snail species.
“The protection of those islands is particularly important for protecting the biodiversity of land snails.”
Dr Gibson said some of the animals were potentially under threat from cane toads.
“We hope the cane toads aren’t able to get to all the islands off the Kimberley coast, and so when we find a new population of quolls on the island it’s potentially a refuge for that species,” she said.
“[But] a lot of the islands are quite close to the coast so there’s always the chance that they will naturally invade some of these islands.
Environment Minister Albert Jacob said a diverse range of reptile species was observed at the three sites, including the giant slender blue tongue skink on Buckle Head.
The animal is only found in the northern Kimberley.
“Scientists also uncovered a collection of chewed Owenia nuts that they suspected had been deposited by the endemic scaly-tailed possum,” Mr Jacob said.
“The possums managed to elude their traps but a scaly-tailed possum was later identified on camera.”
Dr Gibson said plant species found on the sites were still being evaluated.
She said it was hoped to work with local Indigenous people to survey more sites in the future.