Burrowing bettong: little fart machines!

Name(s): Burrowing Bettong (Bettongia lesueur), also known as boodie.

Size: Weight:1–1.5kg. Length: head-body 28-40cm, tail 22-30cm; about the size of an AFL football.

Diet: Although often called herbivores, in truth they will eat anything they can get their tiny little paws on, including meat!

Habitat/range: Once widespread across arid Australia, they are now only found in a few pockets, including islands off WA and reintroduced populations in SA, NSW, WA, and the NT.

Conservation status: Vulnerable.

Superpower/fun fact: Little fart machines, these mammals make fart noises to communicate.

Burrowing bettong making fart noises while being released. Credit: Australian Wildlife Conservancy

Do you love cute little animals that are dainty and sweet? Well, this species is not for you! Burrowing bettongs might be charming, but the more you look, the more peculiar they seem.

Although their diet usually consists of seeds and roots, burrowing bettongs have also been spotted with blood dripping off their faces as they chow down on other dead animals. Nightmare material for sure! They are extremely opportunistic with their diet and can find tiny little morsels that you couldn’t spot with your own eyes, making them nature’s perfect vacuum cleaners.

Burrowing bettong
Burrowing bettong (Bettongia lesueur) in the mallee woodland of Yookamurra Wildlife Sanctuary, Murray Lands region of South Australia, site of endangered species recovery projects conducted by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. Credit: Credit Wayne Lawler/AWC

Burrowing bettongs are also dedicated farters! Yep, while dogs bark, cats meow, and cows moo, boodies actually make fart noises to communicate with each other. These fart-like vocalisations can alert each other of danger, aggression, or breeding opportunities.

As their name might suggest, burrowing bettongs are known for living in underground burrows, often with lots of other bettongs too. These burrows have lots of entrances going in and out, so there is always a quick escape available if a burrowing bettong feels threatened. But if something threatening gets too close, they will often roll onto their back or side, which leaves their big feet and sharp claws free to kick out at danger.

Burrowing bettong
Burrowing bettong, Faure Island, Western Australia. Credit: Brad Leue/AWC

Though they used to be widespread across Australia, they are now only found in a few small pockets due to habitat change and introduced predators like cats and foxed. Fortunately, scientists are working hard to bring Australia’s vacuum cleaner fart machines back to the land by reintroducing them to areas where they used to occur.

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