The diet of red-tailed phascogales in a trial translocation at Alice Springs Desert Park, Northern Territory, Australia
Red-tailed phascogales Phascogales calura are near-threatened (Friend, 2008) arboreal Dasyurids. A breeding programme was established at Alice Springs Desert Park in 2001 to aid species recovery. Twenty-five captive-bred phascogales were released into a suitable habitat at the park in 2006. If shown to be successful, the initial release was to be expanded with the release of further captive-bred phascogales into a suitable habitat in the nearby National Park and into South Australia. In this study, a dietary analysis was conducted to determine the preferred diet of the translocated phascogales in the park environment. Scats were collected during July–October, 2006 and January–March, 2007 from nesting sites within the park. Faecal samples were weighed, soaked in hot water and particles were separated through sieves before examination under a microscope. Scat analysis methods identified that red-tailed phascogales were primarily insectivorous with 92.6% of all scats containing arthropods. They are also opportunistic predators within the park, consuming birds (51.6%), small mammals (33.3%) and on occasion reptiles, and plant material (27.4%). Seasonal comparison of data through SIMPER analyses showed there was significant variation (P=0.009) between spring and summer, due to a large portion of birds present in the diet in spring. The red-tailed phascogale is able to exploit a number of prey types and it is therefore likely that they would survive a ‘hard’ translocation into the wild provided the site chosen has adequate food supply.