Long-footed Potoroo
(Potorous longipes)
A forest-dwelling rat-kangaroo. It can be distinguished from its relative the long-nosed potoroo, by its long hind feet (hence the common name). This shy, mostly nocturnal marsupial plays an important role in its forest ecosystem, helping to disperse the spores of the underground-fruiting fungi on which it feeds. These fungi have developed a symbiotic relationship with the shrubs and trees of the forest, maintaining their health by supplying nutrients and helping to prevent disease. The species has a very restricted range, most of which lies within timber production forest. Here, small isolated sub-populations are at potential risk from introduced predators, logging and associated road construction, controlled burning and wildfire.
Urgent Conservation Actions
The establishment of Special Management Areas (SMAs) throughout the species' range. Control of fuel burning and introduced predators; prohibition of logging and road construction.
Southeast Australia.
Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Diprotodontia
Family: Potoroidae
The marsupial family Potoroidae comprises 4 genera and 10 species. Fossil members of this family are known from the middle Miocene of Australia (16 million years ago). There are three living species in the genus Potorous: the long-nosed potoroo (Potorous tridactylus), Gilbert’s potoroo (Potorous gilbertii), and the long-footed potoroo (Potorous longipes).
Head-body length: 380-415 mm
Tail length: 315-325 mm
Weight: Male: 2.0-2.2 kg
Female 1.6-1.8 kg
Potoroos are essentially small kangaroos, often called ‘rat-kangaroos’. The long-footed potoroo is about the size of a rabbit and has a dense coat of soft grey-brown fur which is paler on the stomach and feet. This species can be distinguished from other potoroos by its long back feet (which give rise to the common name) and long toes with strong claws. A low kiss kiss vocalisation is produced when individuals are stressed, or between mothers and their offspring.
The species is mostly nocturnal and usually solitary. During the day it sleeps in a simple nest, which is usually a shallow depression scraped in the ground in patches of dense vegetation. At night it feeds on the fruiting bodies of underground and partially underground fungi that grow in association with tree roots. Feeding locations are easily identified by small cylindrical-shaped holes dug in search of fungi. The fungi usually make up over 80% of the diet, although some invertebrates and a small amount of plant material are also eaten. More than fifty different species of fungi have been identified in faecal samples, many of which are thought to form symbiotic (mycorrhizal) relationships with forest trees and shrubs. These fungi supply nutrients to their host trees and help prevent disease. Thus, by spreading the fungal spores throughout the forest in their faeces, the potoroo plays an important role in maintaining the health of the forest.

Breeding may occur throughout the year, although most young are born in winter, spring and early summer, after a gestation period of about 38 days. A single young is born which, when bred in captivity, remains in the mother’s pouch for around 140-150 days, reaching sexual maturity at around two years. Females are capable of giving birth to up to three young per year but one to two is usually the norm.
The species occurs in a variety of forest types ranging from montane wet sclerophyll forests at over 1,000 m altitude, to lowland sclerophyll forest at 150 m altitude. It appears to be confined to sites with a high water content throughout the year, since its main food source, hypogeous (underground fruiting) fungi needs high soil moisture to persist. Dense undergrowth is also important as it provides shelter and protection from predators.
Endemic to Australia. This species has a very restricted range, with the two main populations occurring in the Barry Mountains in north-east Victoria and in East Gippsland, also in Victoria. A third, smaller population occurs north of the Victorian border in the south-east forests of New South Wales.
Population Estimate
Unknown but likely less than a few thousand animals.
Classified as Endangered (EN B1ab(v)) on the 2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Listed as an Endangered Species on Schedule 1 of the New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, and listed as an Endangered Species on Schedule 1 of the Commonwealth Endangered Species Protection Act 1992.
The species has a very restricted range, most of which lies within State Forest. These areas are subject to logging and associated road construction which fragment the potoroos’ habitat, and facilitate access of introduced predators such as feral dogs and foxes. Wildfires, fuel reduction burning and logging regimes also reduce the availability and abundance of hypogeous fungi, the species’ primary food source. The small isolated populations of long-footed potoroos are at risk from inbreeding and associated genetic problems, and are more susceptible to extinction from natural disasters such as fire, drought and disease.
Conservation Underway
Two populations of the species occur in the Snowy River National Park, and in 1989 a Potoroo Management Zone was set up over most of the species’ range within Victoria. This has enabled logging and fuel-reduction burning in State Forest to be managed more effectively. In 1991, a moratorium on logging was established in predicted habitat within southeastern New South Wales. Wild dogs and fox populations are controlled in some areas of the species’ range. A long-term monitoring programme is being carried out on one wild population, along with research into the distribution, ecology and threats facing the species. Due to the difficulties in studying this shy nocturnal animal in its natural habitat, ongoing studies into behaviour, reproduction and disease are being carried out at Healesville Sanctuary, where a small captive population is maintained. A Long-footed Potoroo Recovery Team was established in 1993 to advise on management of the species and review management guidelines in the light of new research findings.
Conservation Proposed
The Department of the Environment and Heritage has produced a Recovery Plan (2000) for the species. Objectives include the establishment of Special Management Areas (SMAs) within areas of State Forest throughout the species’ distribution. Fuel control burning will be strictly controlled, and logging, road construction and new recreation facilities will not be permitted in these areas. Foxes and feral dogs will be controlled by poisoning in selected SMAs in association with long-footed potoroo population monitoring. The captive potoroos at Healesville will also be used to test techniques for intensive ecological research on wild populations, such as radio-tracking, improved detection devices and scat collection techniques. These captive animals will also play an important role in public education programmes about the species.
Victoria Department of Natural Resources and Environment, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service
This website provides insight into current conservation actions for this species.

Healesville Sanctuary
This sanctuary allows visitors to learn about native species and their conservation, including a behind the scenes look at a wildlife hospital.

Australasian Marsupial & Monotreme Specialist Group. 1996. Potorous longipes. In: IUCN 2006. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 09 August 2006.

Claridge, A. (2007) pers. comm.

Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Victoria. 2000. Long-footed Potoroo (Potorous longipes) Recovery Plan. National Parks and Wildlife Service, New South Wales; Parks Victoria and State Forests of New South Wales.

Maxwell, S., Burbidge, A. A. and Morris, K. and the IUCN/SSC Australasian Marsupial and Monotreme Specialist Group. (eds.). 1996. The 1996 Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes. Wildlife Australia, Endangered Species Programme.

McKnight, M. 2008. Potorous longipes. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 14 November 2010.

Nowak, R. M. 1999. Walker’s Mammals of the World. Sixth edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Baltimore and London.

Seebeck and Johnston. 1980. Threatened Species Information: Long-footed Potoroo, Potorous longipes.

Distribution map based on data provided by the IUCN Global Mammal Assessment.

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