Self-indulgent paragraph ahoy. Feel free to jump to the next bit if so inclined.
I first heard about bandicoots – or rather, a mysterious “Benjamin Bandicoot” – in a series of Australian cartoons. While ill as a child, I’d asked for a video of Strawberry Shortcake, but because I’d helpfully described this as “the one with the girl with red hair”, I was instead brought a film about a girl called Dot and her adventures in the outback. And I am eternally grateful for that mistake. (If you have small children, do check out Dot and the Kangaroo, Dot and the Bunny, Dot and the Smugglers as far as sanity allows for a rather sweet dose of Aussie animals. Bring tissues for the first one.)
The aforementioned “Benjamin Bandicoot” was exhalted and cheered throughout one of the songs, but never actually made an appearance. I’ll never stop feeling cheated by that, so this is my therapy:
Comparing these critters to the more famous Crash Bandicoot, who looks like a fox, commits mass cargo-cide and saves the world from evil scientists, may be disappointing. But fear not – these animals are no less bad-ass, and I can convince you in five words.
THEY EAT FUNNEL WEB SPIDERS.
Like many an Australian animal, they hide this deadly awesomeness behind an innocent façade. There are about 22 different species, 12 of them in Australia, and the night is their friend. They’re marsupials, so they carry their young in an adorably handy pouch. In bandicoots, said pouch faces backwards, so the babies don’t get a faceful of soil whenever Mum does some decorating. On the other hand, they get a front-row seat when she empties the rubbish, so a mixed blessing. They’re strictly single mothers, but it only takes about 12 days for Mum to grow and pop them out, and 3 months before the kids are off into the big wide world and it’s time for another booty call.
They were fairly chilled before white settlers arrived (wasn’t everyone?), because they only had owls, quolls (meat-eating marsupials) and dingoes on their back. Now they have dogs, foxes and cats to contend with, most of the best neighbourhoods have been cleared for farming, and the farmers themselves would prefer they didn’t dig holes all over the place while looking for bugs.
The arrival of rabbits wasn’t great either. Competition for territory has also forced out the bandicoot, and now about half of Australia’s species are thought extinct or very rare. To show some love to the rabbit-eared bandicoot or bilby, it’s fast becoming the Easter Bilby who delivers eggs in Australia, but despite diligent research in every chocolate shop on sight I was unable to find an example when I visited.
Latin Peramelidae (family)
What? Marsupial mammals
Where? Australia, Tasmania, New Guinea and surrounding islands
How big? 30cm-80cm/12″-31″ long
Endangered? Mostly yes. And the pig-footed bandicoot hasn’t been seen since the 1920s, so presumed extinct.
Probable motto: I’m cute, and I eat deadly spiders. Why do you destroy me?
They sound cool. Do they need my help at all?
A resounding yes.
Most charities and conservation efforts are local, but if you happen to live in New South Wales, you can take part in a bandicoot survey by emailing
You can also donate to Conservation Volunteers Australia to help their Eastern Barred Bandicoot campaign.
Just to prove I’m not fibbing
“Bandicoot“. No date. Britannica.com.
“Bandicoots“. No date. New South Wales Government. Office of Environment & Heritage.
“Eastern Barred Bandicoot.” No date. Conservation Volunteers Australia.
Featured image credit: “Eastern barred bandicoot” by John Carnemolla.