The Numbat: Nature’s Striped Marvel

Numbat” by quollism is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus), also known as the banded anteater, is one of Australia’s most unique and endangered marsupials. Unlike many of its nocturnal relatives, the numbat is diurnal, making it an intriguing subject for wildlife enthusiasts and researchers alike. This fascinating creature, characterised by its distinctive stripes and termite-based diet, plays a crucial role in the ecosystem. This article delves into the life, habitat, and conservation efforts surrounding the numbat, highlighting why it is essential to preserve this remarkable species.

Physical Characteristics and Behaviour

Numbats are small, squirrel-sized marsupials weighing between 280 and 700 grams and measuring about 20 to 27 centimetres in body length, with an additional tail length of 13 to 17 centimetres. Their most striking feature is their reddish-brown coat adorned with white stripes that run from the middle of their back to their rump, providing excellent camouflage in their natural habitat.

Unlike many marsupials, numbats do not have a pouch. Instead, their young cling to the mother’s underside fur until they are more developed. Numbats are solitary animals, with a keen sense of smell and sharp claws designed for breaking into termite mounds, their primary food source. A numbat can consume up to 20,000 termites a day, using its long, sticky tongue to extract them from narrow crevices.

Habitat and Distribution

Historically, numbats were widespread across southern Australia. However, their range has drastically reduced, and they are now primarily found in small patches of eucalypt forests and woodlands in Western Australia, particularly in the Dryandra Woodland and Perup Nature Reserve.

These habitats provide the fallen logs and leaf litter essential for shelter and foraging. The destruction of these habitats due to land clearing, invasive species, and altered fire regimes has significantly impacted numbat populations. Additionally, introduced predators such as foxes and feral cats have contributed to their decline.

Conservation Status and Threats

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the numbat as an endangered species, with estimates suggesting fewer than 1,000 individuals remaining in the wild. Major threats include habitat loss, predation by introduced species, and the fragmentation of populations which limits genetic diversity and increases vulnerability to environmental changes.

Conservation efforts have been underway for several decades, focusing on habitat protection, predator control, and breeding programs. One of the most successful initiatives is the establishment of predator-free reserves, which provide safe havens for numbats to live and breed without the threat of foxes and feral cats.

Conservation Efforts and Success Stories

Organisations like Project Numbat and the Western Australian Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) have been instrumental in numbat conservation. These efforts include:

1. Predator Control Programs: Extensive baiting and trapping programs to reduce the number of foxes and feral cats in key numbat habitats.
2. Habitat Restoration: Replanting native vegetation and restoring degraded habitats to provide more suitable living conditions for numbats.
3. Captive Breeding and Reintroduction: Breeding numbats in captivity and releasing them into protected reserves. Notable success has been achieved at the Perth Zoo, where captive-bred numbats are reintroduced into the wild.

One remarkable success story is the reintroduction of numbats into the Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary in New South Wales, where predator-proof fencing and habitat management have led to a thriving numbat population.

How You Can Help

Conservation of the numbat requires continued support and involvement from the public. Here are a few ways you can contribute:

1. Support Conservation Organisations: Donations to organisations like Project Numbat directly fund conservation activities and research.
2. Advocate for Habitat Protection: Raising awareness about the importance of preserving eucalypt forests and woodlands can influence policy and land management decisions.
3. Volunteer: Many conservation projects rely on volunteers for activities such as habitat restoration, monitoring, and community education.


The numbat, with its unique adaptations and vital ecological role, is a symbol of Australia’s rich biodiversity. While the species faces significant challenges, concerted conservation efforts have shown that recovery is possible. By supporting these initiatives and raising awareness, we can ensure that the numbat continues to roam the Australian woodlands, contributing to the ecological balance and natural heritage of the region. Together, we can make a difference in the survival of this extraordinary species.