About two-dozen Shark Bay bandicoots have been released on Dirk Hartog Island as part of a plan to restore the site to its former ecology. The project is officially known as Return to 1616 and run by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions. Research scientist Saul Cowen said bandicoots, wallabies, dibblers and native rodents roamed free on Dirk Hartog Island in 1616. However, pastoralists, pearling and other human meddling left a mark on the island’s ecosystem. He said the introduction of sheep and goats by pastoralists destroyed native animal habitats, and feral cats introduced by people who worked on the island were the final nail in the coffin for animals such as the Shark Bay bandicoot. “They’re small, docile and don’t bite or scratch,” Mr Cowen said. His team often catches bandicoots by leaving out oats and peanut butter. “They’ll eat anything,” he said. Luckily, Bernier Island and Dorre Island still have healthy populations of wild animals, and Mr Cowen said this had been instrumental in recovering Dirk Hartog Island’s ecosystem. To move the bandicoots, the department crew walks around the neighbouring islands at night with spotlights, catching as many as they can. “Even if we catch 20, we can’t necessarily transport them all over,” he said. The team avoid females with joeys in their pouches, and those who have been infected by bandicoot papillomatosis carcinomatosis virus 1 — an incurable illness not present on Dirk Hartog Island. The latest group of island arrivals, whose boat happened to dock on National Threatened Species Day, are just a piece of the restoration project puzzle. Mr Cowen said the department’s team transported 72 bandicoots last year, and boatfuls of wallabies and dibblers. In the years to come, the department is looking forward to reinstating a native rodent population on the island. He said he was particularly fond of the greater stick-nest rat. “They live in a matriarchal society and the males woo the females with flowers,” he said.