Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Extinct
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
State Government
    Documents and Websites
VIC:Flora and Fauna Guarantee Action Statement 13 - Extinct Mammals 1 (Seebeck, J. & I. Mansergh, 2003) [State Action Plan].
State Listing Status
NSW: Listed as Extinct (Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (New South Wales): August 2014 list)
QLD: Listed as Extinct in the Wild (Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Queensland): May 2014 list)
SA: Listed as Endangered (National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (South Australia): June 2011 list)
VIC: Listed as Threatened (Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (Victoria): May 2014 list)
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Extinct (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
VIC: Listed as Extinct (Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria: 2013 list)
Scientific name Conilurus albipes [131]
Family Muridae:Rodentia:Mammalia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author (Lichtenstein, 1829)
Infraspecies author  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map not available for this taxon.
Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Conilurus albipes

Common name: White-footed Rabbit-rat

Other Names: White-footed Tree-rat

The White-footed Rabbit-rat was an attractive squirrel-like rodent with a combined head and body length of 23–26 cm and a tail length of 22–24 cm. Its weight was estimated at around 200 g. The species' most distinctive feature was its long, bushy, bi-coloured tail, which was dark brown above and white below. Although smaller than a rabbit, the White-footed Rabbit-rat's colour and large, broad ears gave it a superficial resemblance to the rabbit. As all specimens were collected during the first half of the 19th century, most descriptions of the animal come from the work of Gould (1863), who worked in Australia in the 1840s. Gould described this species as having long, soft fur which was grey with ashy-brown tips. The back of the animal had many fine black hairs that were intermixed with these brown tips. The whiskers were black and there was a narrow black line around the eye. The underside of the animal, the inner surface of the limbs and the feet were white. Gould noted there was some colour variation between animals from different regions (Flannery 1990a).

The White-footed Rabbit-rat was endemic to Australia, where it appears to have been distributed in south-eastern South Australia, Victoria, southern and eastern New South Wales and possibly in extreme south-eastern Queensland (Baillie 2008).

Gould (1863) listed the known range of the species as being the south-eastern portions of Australia generally, including all parts of New South Wales, Port Phillip and South Australia.

In Victoria, there are known records from the south-west, central Victoria, and possibly Gippsland (Williams & Menkhorst 1995f).

Specimens from the Darling Downs in southern Queensland were also recorded by Gould (1863).

Pleistocene and recent fossils from cave deposits have been collected from several localities in south-eastern South Australia, southern Victoria, eastern New South Wales and southern Queensland. These fossils support Gould's statements about the species' distribution (Flannery 1990).

This species is presumed to be extinct (Baillie 2008). The White-footed Rabbit-rat was reported as being common in Victoria by John Cotton in 1846 (Mackaness 1978). However, its population appeared to decline rapidly (Seebeck & Menkhorst 2000) and has not been recorded since 1860-1862 in Victoria. Although it was widely distributed, it was apparently not abundant. Surveys conducted over the years have not found this species (Baillie 2008).

The White-footed Rabbit-rat was known to inhabit open forest woodlands and grassy ecosystems in Victoria (Seebeck & Menkhorst 2000). Habitat information is not known for other states in which the species occurred.

Gould observed the species sleeping in the hollow limbs of prostrate trees, or in hollow branches of large Eucalypts near the ground (Gould 1863).

There is very little information on the life cycle of the White-footed Rabbit-rat. One report collected in 1985 from Deniliquin, New South Wales, recorded a female with several young (Flannery 1990). White-footed Rabbit-rats were recorded in a hollow log, which they had stuffed, to a depth of about 60 cm, with nesting material, mainly dried grass (Flannery 1990).

Gould (1863) stated that the White-footed Rabbit-rat was strictly nocturnal in its habits. However, the species appears to have been at least partially diurnal, as there were several records of them being active by day (Flannery 1990).

Much of the habitat of the White-footed Rabbit-rat has been greatly altered by agriculture and fire (Flannery 1990). The widespread fragmentation of forest into isolated remnants prevented gene exchange between populations (Seebeck & Menkhorst 2000). In addition, the difficulty of managing prescription burns in highly flammable vegetation resulted in changes to floristic diversity and structure (Seebeck & Menkhorst 2000).

One report collected in 1985 from Deniliquin, New South Wales, suggests that the mass removal of fallen timber in the area to provide heating for the RAAF base during World War II may have contributed to the decline of the White-footed Rabbit-rat (Flannery 1990).

Other possible causes for extinction of this species were habitat disruption by introduced livestock and rabbits, and predation by cats (Baillie 2008). The first reported White-footed Rabbit-rat from Victoria (in 1839) was captured by a settler's cat (Kenyon 1930; Seebeck et al. 1991). Predation by other introduced carnivores, particularly the red fox, Vulpes vulpes is likely to have contributed to the decline of this species (Seebeck & Menkhorst 2000).

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Uncategorised:Uncategorised:threats not specified Conilurus albipes in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006fq) [Internet].

Baillie, J.E.M. (2008). Conilurus albipes. In: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.1. Downloaded on 28 August 2009. [Online].

Flannery, T. (1990a). Australia's Vanishing Mammals. Surrey Hills, Australia: Readers Digest Press.

Gould, J. (1863). The Mammals of Australia. London, England: published privately.

Kenyon, A.S. (1930). Our first Victorian naturalist: Dr Edmund Charles Hobson. Victorian Naturalist. 47:94-98.

Mackaness, G. (1978). The correspondence of John Cotton, Victorian pioneer, 1842-1849: Part 2. Dubbo, NSW: Review Publications.

Seebeck, J. & P. Menkhorst (2000). Status and conservation of rodents of Victoria. Wildlife Research. 27:357-369.

Seebeck, J.H., L. Greenwood & D. Ward (1991). Cats in Victoria. In: C. Potter, ed. The Impact of Cats on Native Wildlife. Page(s) 18-29. Canberra, ACT: Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service. Endangered Species Unit.

Williams, L.M. & P.W. Menkhorst (1995f). White-footed Rabbit-rat Conilurus albipes. In: P.W. Menkhorst, ed. Mammals of Victoria: distribution, ecology and conservation. Page(s) 202-220. Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Conilurus albipes in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Sun, 21 Sep 2014 00:23:30 +1000.