WWF-Australia, in partnership with the WA Department of Parks and Wildlife conducted a widely promoted rakali community survey in Western Australia. The aim of this survey was to obtain valuable information on the distribution of rakali in WA and to identify threats to this species, while at the same time educating the community about this cryptic and often misunderstood native rodent.
A total of 234 sightings were reported over four months (December 2014 to March 2015). Additionally, 49 transect surveys were carried out with the help of over 90 community volunteers, looking for characteristic rakali foot prints and feeding middens (“the Rakali Walk”).
The study has found that the range of rakali has contracted towards the coastal areas of the south-west and we identified areas of localised declines in the Perth Metropolitan Area. The drying climate in association with water extraction and habitat degradation are a major threat to rakali. Additionally, we found that drowning in box or opera-house freshwater crayfish (e.g. marron, Cherax cainii) traps were the main reported cause of rakali mortality.
The Rakali Community Survey report has highlighted critical research and management recommendations for the species and will inform future conservation strategies for this fascinating species.
The Rakali Community Survey was made possible thanks to a grant from Lotterywest.
Rakali, Australian water-rat, Moytj or Ngurju (Southwest Australia Noongar Aboriginal names)
The rakali is one of the few amphibious (semi-aquatic) mammals in Australia. Rakali are found in both fresh and marine waters, including riverine, wetland, estuarine and coastal habitats in all Australian states and territories.
Between 300g to 1.3kg
Rakali can be distinguished from introduced black rats by their broad face, larger size (a rakali’s body length is about 30 cm compared to a black rat of no more than 20 cm) and the rakali’s characteristic thick tail that ends with a white tip. They are black to grey on their backs with white to golden fur on their bellies. Adaptations to their semi-aquatic lifestyle include partially webbed hind-feet, dense water-repellent fur and small ears and eyes.