Numbats. They're the sort of odd-looking and strangely named creatures we file away with the rest of Australia's weird and wonderful wildlife – and unless you live Down Under, it's possible that you've never even heard of them. If that's the case, then this furry huddle of numbat babies just emerging from their burrow is your [seriously adorable] introduction. 

The rare footage was captured in a nature conservation area in Western Australia known as the Dryandra Woodland – and it's particularly special because the forest here is one of only two locations where wild, naturally occurring numbat populations still exist. 

While more iconic Australian animals like koalas and Tasmanian devils get the biggest share of the world's attention, the plight of these pointy-faced, termite-guzzling, bottlebrush-tailed marsupials is often overlooked. And yet they're among the continent's most endangered animals, with as few as 1,000 still surviving in the wild.

Luckily, the numbats have a few allies in their corner – including one group of particularly dedicated citizen conservationists who call themselves the Numbat Task Force. This clip of baby numbats just beginning to explore the outside world is one of many numbat sightings the group has recorded in Dryandra's forests over the years.

"We would watch Mum leave and head over the hill to feed, then walk over and set the cameras up. What a magic experience to be able to watch these little guys grow and start to explore the world around them," writes the group's Rob McLean. Its members have been filming and photographing Dryandra's numbats since the 1990s.

McLean and the other volunteers regularly monitor the population, visiting the woodland in their spare time, and posting footage and photographs of their sightings to the group's Facebook page. By now, they know the forest well enough to recognise individual numbats and pinpoint their favourite hangouts.

"Numbats are the clowns of the forest," McLean tells Australia Geographic. "They are like meerkats on steroids."

But tracking these charismatic creatures is more than just a pleasant pastime. The group's efforts have had a tangible effect on conservation, raising awareness for the endangered numbats and helping to establish Dryandra as a crucial habitat for the species that's worthy of urgent protection.

The numbat's biggest foes are foxes and feral cats, so controlling these introduced predators is key to the survival of the species. Australia's fenced, predator-free reserves have seen their numbat numbers grow, but areas like Dryandra are still at risk. In the years that the Numbat Task Force has been tracking the furry inhabitants, their numbers have fallen from 600 to perhaps fewer than 50.

"A sad fact about much of the numbats' habitat [here] is that it is surrounded by intense agricultural cropping. This leaves little chance for our natives to move out to new areas, while offering no resistance to feral predators moving in. As a society, we have an obligation to ensure the protection of these last islands our unique wildlife calls home," says the group.  


Top header image: Simon Forsyth, Flickr