Greater stick-nest rat (Leporillus conditor)

Greater stick-nest rat in habitat
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Greater stick-nest rat fact file

Greater stick-nest rat description

GenusLeporillus (1)

This rodent is named after the conspicuous stick-nests it builds (4). At the time of European settlement two species of stick-nest rats existed in Australia; the greater (Leporillus conditor) and the lesser stick-nest rat (Leporillus apicalis). Both species suffered dramatic population losses and now only the greater stick-nest rat exists (1). The greater stick-nest rat has yellowish-brown to grey fluffy fur, which is paler below, and sits in a hunched position rather like a rabbit (2). Its tail is fairly long, with a brush of hairs at the end. The ears are large, rounded and dark, and the eyes are black and beady (2).

Also known as
Franklin Island stick-nest rat, House-building rat, wopilkara.
Rat Architecte.
Rata Arquitecto.
Head-body length: 170 - 260 mm (2)
Tail length: 145 - 180 mm (2)
180 - 450 g (2)

Greater stick-nest rat biology

This small rodent uses branches, stones and grass to construct nests that may reach an amazing one metre in height and over a metre in diameter (2). Interestingly, on Franklin Island they do not usually build self standing nests, and instead construct smaller structures around shrubs (2). Tunnels lead from the perimeter of the nest to the centre, which is lined with soft vegetation (4). Nests usually contain up to four individuals, consisting of an adult female and her two to three young (5), and aggressive behaviour is shown towards unfamiliar members (2).

Unlike many Australian rodents this species is active at night, when it forages in the dark for leaves and fruits of succulent plants (2) (4). Pairs establish strong bonds and breeding occurs throughout the year. The gestation period lasts 44 days, after which one to three young are born (4). Offspring become independent after two months, and once mature are capable of producing two to three litters per year (4).


Greater stick-nest rat range

The natural population of this species is restricted to the West and Eastern Franklin Islands, off the South Australian coast. Captive bred populations have also been successfully introduced onto St Peter Island, Reevesby Island, Salutation Island and Heirisson Prong, and to a fenced area at Roxby Downs (South Australia) (2).


Greater stick-nest rat habitat

Inhabits semi-arid to arid scrubland where there is little or no freshwater (2).


Greater stick-nest rat status

The greater sick-nest rat is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened


Greater stick-nest rat threats

This species has been almost completely lost from its former range. This followed European settlement in Australia, when cattle and sheep grazing caused significant habitat disturbance across the mainland (6) (7). The effects of habitat destruction were further aggravated by severe droughts (8). Predation by native and introduced species, such as foxes and cats, has also contributed to the decline of the stick-nest rat (7).


Greater stick-nest rat conservation

During the 1980s, detailed studies of this rat’s habitat and dietary requirements were carried out, and used to develop a recovery plan for the species (6). The recovery plan included maintaining populations on Franklin Island, establishing a breeding colony on the mainland, translocating individuals to new sites and controlling predation of the stick-nest rat (2). Following the success of these measures the stick-nest rat is on the way to recovery (6).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For more information on the greater stick-nest rat and its conservation see:




Authenticated (11/02/08) by Peter Copley, Senior Ecologist, Threatened Species, Department for Environment and Heritage, Government of South Australia.



The transferring of individuals of living organisms from one area to another.


  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2016)
  2. Department of Environment and Conservation: NatureBase (January, 2008)
  3. CITES (July, 2009)
  4. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO): Sustainable Ecosystems (January, 2004)
  5. Copley, P. (2008) Pers. comm.
  6. Department for Environment and Heritage (January, 2004)
  7. Perth Zoo (January, 2004)
  8. Lee, A.K. (1995) The Action Plan for Australian Rodents. Environment Australia, Canberra.

Image credit

Greater stick-nest rat in habitat  
Greater stick-nest rat in habitat

© Michael J. Barritt

Michael J. Barritt


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