The Western Quoll’s chances of survival have been given a lift with their re-introduction into their former habitat of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, where they disappeared from over 130 years ago.
The Western Quoll (or Chuditch) is one of Australia’s rarest species. It is a medium-sized predator and has a white-spotted brown coat and a long tail like its eastern and northern quoll relatives. The marsupial carnivore once covered about 70 per cent of Australia, but loss of habitat and killings by feral cats and foxes have seen the Western Quoll’s range reduced to the south-west of Western Australia, where they remain a threatened species.
The re-introduction program was trialled in April last year, when 41 Western Quolls were flown in from Western Australia. They were released into unfenced woodland at Wilpena Pound, in the Flinders Ranges NP, after a great deal of fox and cat eradication measures to decrease these feral animals’ numbers.
Despite the loss of 11 Western Quolls from the first release, mostly by feral cats, the trial was considered a success, as most of the surviving females bred and gave birth to around 60 young, with 10 of the females having about 6 babies each. Based on the great results of the trial release approval was given for the official translocation project to begin.
The unusual thing here is it's actually working without a fence, which is pretty incredible... To get an increase in one year is pretty amazing - Ecologist Kathryn Moseby.
A further stage of the program took place in early May this year with the release of another thirty-seven adult Western Quolls in the Flinders Ranges. They will swell the numbers of the newly introduced colony to well over 100 quolls.
The project is supported by funding from the Foundation for Australia's Most Endangered Species (FAME). FAME partnered with the South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources for the program, who for the past 23 years has conducted the Bounceback program, dedicated to land management and tackling feral animals.
Australia's first threatened species commissioner Gregory Andrews said it would not have been possible without many groups working together. "Here we have an opportunity ... because of 20 years of consistent effort by state government, national parks, the rangers, the Indigenous people and even the sporting shooters association," he said.
It was hoped the relocation of the Western Quolls would also significantly reduce the risk of extinction in WA. "So we've got a genetic bank if ever there was a disease that hit that population here in Western Australia," WA Environment Minister Albert Jacob said.
As long as we continue bad land clearing practices we still face a huge struggle in protecting threatened species in Australia, as preserving suitable habitats is crucial in saving native wildlife. This project is however a fantastic victory in the campaign to help the recovery of the Western Quoll and reverse some of the damage we have done to the ecosystems and wildlife of Australia.
The Flinders Ranges, is a wild region where the Western Quoll became extinct and is now once again the home of the endangered animal. This project is the first ever return of the threatened quoll to part of its original range. If the effort to bring back the Western Quoll to South Australia continues to go well there could be further translocations in the future. That’s certainly a cause for celebration.