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Spencer Gray and Australia’s most endangered mammal - classroom activity

Spencer Gray and Australia’s most endangered mammal

August 3, 2017

We have class sets of our free teaching activity; ‘Do you know your Aussie animals?’ available to order or download now. In the meantime, author Deb Fitzpatrick talks about her new novel, The Spectacular Spencer Gray, and why it features Australia’s most endangered mammal.

I really believe that kids have the power to make a difference, and I love putting them into situations in my books where they can prove this.

In The Spectacular Spencer Gray Spencer and his mates are playing soccer on the oval at lunchtime, and the ball gets kicked into the bush. Spencer retrieves the ball, but while he’s in there, he sees a man running away, as though Spencer has interrupted him doing something. Well, Spencer just has to go back to investigate, doesn’t he …? And he gets caught up in something pretty sinister.

I love being able to work my interests and concerns into my books, and caring for the environment is an abiding interest for me. I did some research on international animal smuggling and learned that quite a few Australian birds and animals are trafficked and I quickly began to want to write about that.

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The Gilbert’s potoroo is Australia’s most endangered mammal and the world’s rarest marsupial. Three things you should know about it are:

  1. It is on the brink of extinction, with only 30 to 40 animals in the only known wild population, which is near Two People’s Bay on the southern WA coast. There is an additional 90 to 100 animals in two translocated conservation colonies.
  2. It was actually presumed extinct until 1994, when a population was accidentally stumbled upon by scientists researching quokkas.
  3. Its diet of 90% truffles (the fruiting bodies of underground fungi) make Gilbert’s potoroo one of the most fungi-dependent of mammals anywhere in the world.

What a story! I couldn’t wait to get Spencer Gray involved in helping to save Gilbert’s potoroo. I only wish I’d been as gutsy as Spencer and the boys when I was a kid! I hope that by writing about it in The Spectacular Spencer Gray, readers will become more aware of the plight of the Gilbert’s potoroo and the amazing conservation work that’s being done to help protect it.

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For more information about Gilbert’s potoroo visit the Gilbert’s Potoroo Action Group at potoroo.org.