Australian bandicoot brought back from brink of extinction

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An Eastern Barred BandicootImage source, Getty Images
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The Eastern Barred Bandicoot has been bumped off the Australian state of Victoria's "extinct in the wild" list

A small furry marsupial that roamed plains in Australia has been brought back from the brink of extinction on the country's mainland, officials say.

Numbers of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot plummeted on the mainland because of foxes and habitat destruction.

Now, after 30 years of conservation efforts, the number has jumped from just 150 animals to an estimated 1,500.

It is the first time Australia has changed the status of an animal from "extinct in the wild" to "endangered".

When recorded population levels of the bandicoots plunged in Australia's Victoria state in the years leading up to the late 1980s, conservation teams invested millions of dollars setting up captive breeding programmes.

They created predator-free sites - some of which were protected by trained dogs - and moved some of the animals to fox-free islands.

Announcing the change in conservation status of the bandicoot on Wednesday, Victoria's Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio said she was "excited" about the project's success, adding: "It is an incredible first for Australia."

A threatened species biologist at Zoos Victoria in Melbourne, Amy Coetsee, said the news offered "hope that with persistence, determination and the support of government, volunteers and communities, we can win the fight against extinction", AFP news agency reported.

Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate of any country in the world, according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Australia.

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