Super 7 finalists for Australian Mammal of the Year… who will you vote for?

Voting closed! We’ll be back in two hours with the result and to open voting for the final 6…

Despite defying extinction in the real world, the eastern barred bandicoot hasn’t managed to do the same in our Mammal of the Year competition – knocked out of the running only 8 votes behind the rakali. These margins at the bottom of the leaderboard are so close that every single vote counts!

Now you’ve got just 22 hours to vote for your favourite in the Top 7, after which we’ll remove the lowest-rated mammal, clear the tallies and start again at the same time tomorrow. Get behind our mammals and give them a shoutout to your friends to get them into the next rounds.

RIP to the eastern barred bandicoot

Name: Eastern barred bandicoot (Perameles gunnii)

Group: Burrowers

Size: Length 30cm, weight (mainland subspecies) 750g

Diet: Omnivore

Habitat: Grassy woodlands of the south-west Victorian volcanic plains stretching into South Australia. The mainland subspecies was deemed “extinct in the wild” until 2021 but has been reintroduced into four fenced reserves (Woodlands Historic Park, Hamilton Community Parklands, Mt Rothwell and Tiverton) and introduced onto three islands (Churchill, Phillip and French). A different subspecies occurs in Tasmania.

Conservation status: Endangered

Superpower: Mini earth-moving machines and masters of disguise.

Eastern barred bandicoot
Eastern barred bandicoot. Credit: Zoos Victoria

Eastern barred bandicoots (EBBs) are not only super cute with their pointy noses, bulging eyes and stripey bums, they also have some amazing abilities.

For starters, their conical-shaped head is used in conjunction with some powerful front legs to dig crater-shaped holes in the dirt, aptly called “snout pokes”. This is their favourite pastime. They dig to find juicy morsels of food, such as worms or beetle grub larvae. In the process of foraging, they can turn over a whopping 13kg of soil a night! They are mini earth-moving machines, great for improving soil health and seed germination.

Eastern barred bandicoots will eat most things they come across – worms, crickets, plant material and even crabs. They can also leap up to 1.2m into the air to catch an unsuspecting moth flying past. Pretty impressive for an animal that’s only 15cm tall.

EBBs don’t usually like the company of other bandicoots, but they will make an exception for making babies, and they don’t restrict this activity to any particular time of the year. Whilst young can be born year-round, most are born over the cooler months when soils are easier to dig and food more readily available.

Pregnancy in EBBs lasts just 12.5 days, the second shortest of any mammal! Being marsupials, small, underdeveloped young are born, usually one-to-four, and crawl into the backwards-facing pouch to attach to a teat. They remain there for 35 days at which point they are fully furred and start to jump in and out of the pouch. They are weaned around 50 days old. The young are taught how to forage and build a grass nest before they are left to fend for themselves at around 75 days old. It sounds a bit harsh, but when you only live two-to-three years, you have to learn fast. And fast is what EBBs do. They can start breeding from three months of age and have up to five litters a year. In no time at all you can have a healthy population of bandicoots, but only if their biggest threat, the red fox, is not around.

Young eastern barred bandicoot
Young eastern barred bandicoot. Credit: Zoos Victoria

Whilst EBBs prefer to forage in open grasslands and nest in areas containing shrubs and trees, they can find nesting and foraging spots in a variety of habitats. Nests are shallow and usually lined with grass, but they’ve also been known to use leaf litter or prickly hedge wattle – ouch!

Eastern barred bandicoots are masters of disguise with magical bums. Up close they don’t really look like they have any pattern on their bum at all. But the stripes become more defined the further away they get – then all of a sudden, poof, they disappear, perfectly camouflaged in their grassy habitat.

How could anyone not love the eastern barred bandicoot?

But if that wasn’t enough, how about this? In an Australian first, the mainland eastern barred bandicoot was reclassified from Extinct in the Wild to Endangered in 2021, and the 33-year captive breeding program ended as it was no longer needed.

In no particular order, here are our Top 7!

Dugong (Dugong dugon)

Surprising few, the darling dugong remained master of the Marine Mammals with 37% of the vote – well ahead of runner up the Australian fur seal with 13%.

Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus)

The platypus also got a whole lot of love – swimming its way into the Top 10 as the next highest voted mammal across all of the categories other than the category winners.

Mountain pygmy possum (Burramys parvus)

This alpine darling might be hibernating, but that didn’t stop its ascent to the top of the Hello Possums category and into the running for Mammal of the Year.

Gilbert’s Potoroo (Potorous gilbertii)

This beautiful little fungus eater hopped to the top of the Marvellous Macropods and stayed there with a quarter of all the votes, pipping the Quokka at the post.

Dingo (Canis dingo or Canis familiaris)

Australia’s charismatic but controversial native dog took out the top spot in the Rock Stars category in a landslide with a whopping 35% of the vote!

Think hard about your choice because you can only vote once per round!

Southern bent-wing bat (Miniopterus orianae bassanii)

An incredible surge of last-minute voting in the Brilliant Bats category saw a surprising switcheroo; the southern bent-wing bat swooping ahead of the spectacled flying-fox and into the Top 10 with 36% of the votes.

Rakali or Australian water rat (Hydromys chrysogaster)

The wondrous water rat emerged victorious, and without tough competition from the rest of the Rollicking Rodents, carrying a healthy 32% of the votes across the finishing line.

How does voting work?

“But how does voting work?” you may ask. Don’t worry, it’s super simple.

Voting has now opened for the Top 7 (from 12:00pm AEST Thursday 18 August) and will be open for 22 hours – closing tomorrow, Friday 19 August, at 10:00am AEST.

Then, at 12:00pm AEST we’ll announce the mammal that has received the least votes and has been booted out of the running.

We’ll set the tally back to zero and open up voting for the Top 6 anew.

Each day we’ll whittle away at the list of our most marvellous mammals until the last two left standing are announced on Tuesday 23 August.

With voting open for two days, we’ll finally put the debate to rest (for this year at least) and crown Australia’s Mammal of the Year on Thursday 25 August!

Vote for your pick in the Top 7 here:

Can’t see the voting ballot? Cast your vote on Crowdsignal here.

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