Numbats live in forests in Western Australia.
Numbats eat only white ants.
They are also called 'the banded anteater'.
They catch white ants with their long sticky tongues.
Numbats have reddish-brown fur.
The numbat is a small marsupial that is found only in a small area of southwest Western Australia.
Habitat and distribution (where they are found)
The numbat's habitat is eucalyptus forests. In the past, it was also found in grasslands. The important thing for numbats is that they live where there are termites.
What do numbats look like?
The numbat's body is about 24 cm long, and it has a brushy tail about 17 cm long. Its fur is reddish-brown, with white stripes across its back. These stripes, and its diet, have given it the name 'banded anteater'. The numbat has a narrow head with a pointy muzzle. It has a long thin sticky tongue that it flicks into holes where termites are. The numbat is unusual because it is a marsupial without a pouch!
The numbat is the only marsupial that feeds only on termites. The insects stick to the numbat's long sticky tongue and are taken into the mouth. Numbats eat about 20,000 termites a day. Unlike other ant-eating mammals, the numbat does not have strong claws for tearing apart termite nests. The numbat is not strong enough to do that, so it finds termites by scent and then scrabbles at the soil to find the corridors that termites travel along.
The numbat is one of the few marsupials that is diurnal, or active during the day. It sleeps in hollow fallen logs, and sometimes may dig a burrow. Numbats must be active at times when the termites are active: in summer termites come out in the cool times of the day in early morning and late afternoon, and then go deep into the soil when the day gets hot. Numbats shelter in logs or burrows during the heat of the day and come out to feed when the termites are out. In winter, termites don't come out until the sun has started to warm the soil, and they stay out until sunset. Numbats also remain active from late morning till sunset so they can feed.
Males and females mate around December. Being marusupials, the females are pregnant for just a few days, and the young are born at a very early stage of development. Fourteen days after mating, female numbats give birth to up to 4 young. Numbats do not have a pouch, so each tiny young attaches itself to one of four teats on the outside of the mother's belly, unprotected by a pouch, and stays attached for about 5 months. Young are then moved to a nest at the end of a burrow until spring, when they start to come out and play, staying near the entrance to the burrow for safety. By late spring they are ready to move away and eventually find their own territory.
Conservation Status and Threats
The numbat is classified as Vulnerable. It was once found across the southern part of Australia but is now only found in a few small areas in Western Australia. Its numbers have been reduced by habitat loss and by predation by cats and foxes, which are introduced animals.
They are affected by habitat loss: when land is cleared and logs removed they have nowhere to shelter. When termites are cleared also numbats are left with no food.
There are about 1,000 left in the wild: fewer than giant pandas, Sumatran tigers, and many other threatened animals.