A nice meal and flowers may not get the girl in the age of online dating, but threatened species researchers have had success using these old-fashioned romance techniques to help save one of NSW’s critically endangered species, the smoky mouse.
Six new litters of baby mice have now been welcomed at Australia’s only smoky mouse captive breeding facility, which is located just outside of Queanbeyan.
“Population numbers have become critically low for this native mouse, there are only two sites in NSW where smoky mice are known to occur – the Nullica area on the Far South Coast where fewer than 200 individuals remain, and Kosciuszko National Park,” said Office of Environment and Heritage Threatened Species Officer, Dr Linda Broome.
The breeding program began in July last year where specially designed enclosures have been increasing population numbers.
“We all know that food can be the gateway to someone’s heart, and it certainly plays an important role for the smoky mouse.
“Flowers, food and emulating the smoky mouse’s natural conditions in the wild are key in helping to encourage breeding in the enclosures,” said Dr Broome.
“The captive breeding facility places the male mouse in one enclosure, and the female in another. The two enclosures are then connected to a third enclosure which is the mutual meeting area.
“Native flowers are put in the enclosures to encourage breeding and we also vary their diet of seeds and fruits to find out the ideal breeding weight. If the female mice are too heavy, they won’t breed. The mice are weighed every day during the breeding season to make sure they are at the ideal weight.
“We started the program with six adult smoky mice and are excited by the six litters that have been produced – with hopefully more to come,” commented Dr Broome.
The captive breeding program is part of the NSW Government’s Saving our Species program, providing $400,000 towards conservation of this critically endangered species. The Saving Our Species program aims to secure as many threatened wild species as possible for the next 100 years. The NSW Government has invested $100 million over five years in this program.
The smoky mouse weighs between 40-60 grams.
In the wild these native mice breed once or twice a year - unlike house mice which have very quick and frequent breeding cycles.
Smoky mice have four nipples therefore a maximum of four young in a litter, differing to rats who have 8-12 nipples and larger litters.
The smoky mouse is gentle and shows very little predator avoidance behaviour which means they are highly vulnerable to feral cats.