Threatened Species Day fact sheet
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2003
The name of the False Water Rat is misleading – it is not truly aquatic, and it is actually a mouse! Its small size, dark grey fur and white belly make it clearly distinguishable. It is commonly known as the False Water Rat because it is related to Australia's true water rat but lacks the webbing of the hind feet.
The False Water Rat is listed as vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. This Act is the main Commonwealth legislation for protecting the environment and conserving biodiversity.
Although not truly aquatic, the False Water Rat lives near shallow water close to the coast. It forages in mangrove forests for small crabs, shellfish and worms.
The only known False Water Rat populations in Australia are in coastal areas of the Northern Territory and Queensland. It is found in coastal wetlands such as lagoons, swamps and sedged lakes close to fore dunes. It forages amongst the mangroves at night when the tide is low, and when the tide rises it returns to the adjacent sedgelands for shelter.
The False Water Rat builds large mud nests like termite mounds, up to 60 centimetres high and usually in areas where they can escape the highest of tides. They often use exposed tree roots to form the foundation for the mounds.
False Water Rats have a life cycle that depends on mangrove communities as well as a range of other wetland communities for survival. Mangrove and other coastal wetland communities are widely threatened by development for residential and recreational purposes and to a lesser extent for agriculture and aquaculture. Loss of mangroves means loss of habitat for the false water rat, a main cause for its decline. Dingoes, foxes and feral pigs also prey on them.
Through the Australian Government's Natural Heritage Trust, important survey, research and on-ground threat abatement works has recently been undertaken.
Here's how you can help the False Water Rat and other threatened Queensland species:
- help spread the word about the importance of their conservation;
- join your local Coastcare, Landcare or Bushcare group;
- if you are a property owner, or land-manager and have False Water Rat habitat on your property, contact your local coordinator at the details below to find out how you can help; and
- if you are working with a community conservation group, consider submitting an application for a TSN Community Grant to help conserve the false water rat and its habitat.
Wetlands are vital to Australia. They protect our shores from wave action, reduce the impacts of floods, absorb pollutants and provide habitat for animals and plants.
Wetlands are important in other ways as well. They purify our water and are important for recreational activities. They provide breeding grounds for many fish and other aquatic species.
The coastal lowlands (low altitude areas adjacent to the coast) of south-east Queensland, including Fraser, Moreton and Stradbroke Islands, contain a diverse and complex variety of wetlands. These wetlands include paperbark forests, heathland (wallum) and mangrove communities.They provide important habitat for many threatened plants such as the endemic Durringtonia palidosa only found in south-east Queensland, and phaius species which have the largest flowers of any Australian orchid. These wetlands are also important habitat for many different migratory birds.
Wetlands are under pressure from coastal development and changed water flows and flooding regimes. Altered fire regimes, weeds, pests and pollution also threaten these wetlands.
Australia has international agreements with Japan and China to protect shorebirds. Two of the 63 wetlands of international importance, also known as Ramsar wetlands, have been established in south-east Queensland, as have other environmental reserves to protect the wetlands.
Several local groups are also actively working to protect these areas. Mapping, research, survey work and coastal management plans are also underway.
For more information about helping threatened species in Queensland, contact the Threatened Species Network Coordinator:
Telephone: (07) 3221 0573
You can also find out more information about Australia's threatened species by calling the Department of the Environment and Heritage Community Information Unit on free call 1800 803 772 or by visiting: www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened