To the untrained eye, there are a few obvious differences between classic video game character Crash Bandicoot and a regular bandicoot.
Actual bandicoots are:
- Walk on four legs
- Generally naked
- Do not have mohawks
- Have long pointy faces
- Male and female bandicoots look fairly similar without close inspection, and aren’t separated by the need to wear shirts. Nor do female bandicoots have long blonde hair. They are unaware of human gender expectations and the patriarchy.
- As far as we can tell, no bandicoot has ever actually jumped dimensions.
- Eating Whumpa Fruit will not give bandicoots extra lives. They are mortal.
- They are unbothered by the existence of crates and have not dedicated their lives to breaking them.
However, to celebrate and truly appreciate the launch of Crash Bandicoot 4: About Time, we wanted to learn more. Werribee Open Range Zoo Natives Keeper, Yvette Pauligk, has a trained eye, and was kind enough to tell us all about these amazing creatures.
It turns out, Crash and Eastern barred bandicoots actually have a couple of things in common. “In terms of similarities, both Crash Bandicoot and Eastern barred bandicoots have long pointy noses (for foraging) and large ears (for listening and temperature regulation),” Pauligk told Kotaku Australia.
But there’s still more qualities that separate them. “In terms of differences, the Eastern barred bandicoot has specialised toes. Their toes at the front of their feet are helpful for digging and foraging, whilst their toes at the back are helpful for jumping and grooming.”
“Their eyes are much smaller than Crash Bandicoot’s eyes,” Pauligk added. “These eyes help them to see well at night, when they are active. The Eastern barred bandicoot’s coat is also a darker brown colour, and they have characteristic light brown/grey stripes across their lower back and bottom area.”
The fact that Crash is never seen with a consistent girlfriend is on brand for bandicoots. “Eastern barred bandicoots are solitary animals, which means they prefer to live on their own. In breeding season they will pair up to mate, and then go their separate ways,” Pauligk said.
Same with having Crash needing to run zig-zags to collect fruit. “Bandicoots are surprisingly fast and need to be to escape predators. A lot of these predators are introduced species in Australia, such as cats and foxes. When they run, they will also move in a zig-zag motion to try and trick anyone chasing them.”
Although actual bandicoots don’t say “whoa:” very often, they are also creatures of few words. “Eastern barred bandicoots are relatively quiet animals, however they do make noises to warn off predators or other bandicoots,” Pauligk said. “This can include huffing noises, or short grunt sounds. These vocalisations help the bandicoots appear bigger and scarier than they are.”
These are some of Pauligk’s favourite Eastern barred bandicoot facts:
- They have one of the shortest gestation (pregnancy) periods of all mammals – just 12.5 days.
- By just four months old they can start breeding.
- A bandicoot pouch faces backwards so dirt doesn’t get in when they are digging and foraging.
- Male bandicoots have one of the largest genitals for their size.
- They use their long noses to make cone-shaped holes in the earth to look for insects.
- Bandicoots all have completely different personalities from one to the next – so it’s great to know each one individually. They are so inquisitive and love to explore their environment.
- Eastern barred bandicoots were thought to be extinct, until a small population was found in a car wreck yard in Hamilton, Victoria.
Unfortunately, bandicoots are still critically endangered. “Extensive destruction of their habitats following European settlement saw the species population plummet. Almost all (>99.9%) of their habitat was wiped out and introduced predators hunted them almost to extinction,” Pauligk said.
Zoos Victoria has been working to protect them by releasing them on predator free islands, and working with conservation partners to build fenced sites to make some places on the mainland safe for them to live. The breeding program has also been making huge strides to bring the bandicoot back from the brink. “More than 960 bandicoots have been born at Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo and partner organisations over the past 30 years,” Pauligk added. “Watching them raise their young and then seeing them be released into the wild is a wonderful feeling.”
If you want to help protect bandicoots, Pauligk has a couple of suggestions for things you can do. “Anyone can help protect Eastern barred bandicoots by visiting and/or donating to sites working to protect the species from extinction – including Zoos Victoria. Like all wildlife, Eastern barred bandicoots need a safe place to live. The conservation work requires a lot of really passionate people dedicating their time to look after bandicoots, and also maintenance of habitats and environments for bandicoots to thrive.”
Because bandicoots are nocturnal, you’re unlikely to be able to see one in the wild. However, they are on display at the Healesville Sanctuary’s Nocturnal House. You could also visit places like Mt Rothwell, which offers night walking tours where you could see the Eastern barred bandicoot as well as other native animals that are under threat.