“It is promising to hear the numbat population there is doing well and bigger than first thought,” Whitby said.
“I visited recently and it was very clear to me this is an extremely important conservation area.
“Following our decision to ban native logging – which will be critical to maintaining biodiversity and forest health – I am keen to look at further protection for the area to ensure it remains a stronghold for the numbat and other endangered animals.”
Greens MP Brad Pettitt said it was vital its habitats received the highest protection available to the state.
“Designating the areas around Peru in the Upper Warren area, like recently occurred with the Dryandra Woodland National Park, would be a significant step towards offering this important species a more certain future.”
Scientists usually use non-lethal traps to catch small mammals but UWA PhD student Sian Thorn, who authored the new study on numbat numbers sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, said the stripey animal was too tricky for that.
“They’re just so cryptic,” she said.
Instead, Thorn and a team of researchers found they could model the density of the Upper Warren numbats by examining their stripes as captured by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attraction camera traps placed in five locations.
The cameras could be left running all day and with home ranges of 25 to 50 hectares there were always numbats running by and triggering photos.
They were able to identify individual numbats from their unique stripe patterns and then model the size of the Upper Warren’s total population.
The camera trap data dated back from 2016 and 2017 and Thorn said she wanted to figure out the best way to set up the cameras to use them as a tool in the future to monitor numbat numbers.
Thorn said despite getting a better idea of how many numbats were left, the population was still very small.
But authorities are confident the Upper Warren will be a place for rare species to thrive thanks to its fox and cat control programs.
“For the last 20 years we thought the number of numbats was less than 1000, but just in this once place … we’ve got more than 1000 to 2000 and they’ve got room to grow as our fox control and our cat control expand,” he said.