Previously known as the New Holland Mouse, Pookila are small, burrowing rodents native to south-eastern Australia. They are similar in size to the introduced House Mouse, but distinguished by their large eyes, rounded ears, a bi-coloured pink and dusky brown tail, and the absence of a distinctive ‘mousey’ odour.
What They Eat
These omnivorous mice feed mainly on seeds above ground. Although seeds are the most prominent component of the Pookila’s diet, they also consume leaves, fungi and small invertebrates.
The species has undergone dramatic declines in recent decades, with seven of the 12 known Victorian populations now extinct, leaving just five sites across the Gippsland region in Victoria’s east.
Pookila reside in small areas of heathland, woodland and vegetated sand dunes. Weighing around 20 grams, they nest in underground burrows, emerging at night to forage for seeds, invertebrates, fungi and plants. In doing so, they play an important role in seed and fungal spore dispersal, helping to maintain healthy ecosystems.
The population decline is attributed to the compounding effects of inappropriate fire regimes, habitat fragmentation, increasing severity and frequency of drought and bushfire due to climate change, predation by feral species, and the loss of genetic diversity.
What we are doing
Moonlit Sanctuary is part of the Pookila Captive Breeding and Reintroduction Program, collaborating with Zoos Victoria, the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action,, Gippsland Water, Parks Victoria, the Australasian Zoo and Aquarium Association and members of the national Pookila Recovery Team.
Pookila are currently not on display but are housed in Moonlit Sanctuary’s Small Mammal Conservation Breeding Centre.
Young are born between the months of August and January, and their breeding patterns are based on the amount of food obtained, which depends on rainfall and they also take cues from seasonal variations, specifically the change in length of day and night.
Births occur in the mother’s nest during the day with litters normally consisting of 1-6 pups. During their first year of reproduction, females will normally produce only one litter a season, but during their second year they can produce up to three or four litters. Females feed their young for 3-4 weeks.