THESE pups will make history next year when they become the first eastern quolls to live in the wild on mainland Australia for more than 50 years.
Once found across much of south eastern Australia, eastern quolls were wiped out on the mainland by foxes, cats, poisoning and habitat destruction. The species, however, still exists in the wild in Tasmania.
About 37 cm long (excluding the tail) and weighing about 1 kilogram, eastern quolls feed on insects, small mammals, birds and reptiles.
Twenty eastern quolls bred at Trowunna Wildlife Park and Devils@Cradle in Tasmania are due to be released into Booderee National Park in the Jervis Bay region next April.
They’re pups now but by next year they will be adults about to enter their first year of breeding.
While there are eastern quolls already living in fenced sanctuaries in Victoria and Canberra, the quolls destined for Jervis Bay will be the first of their kind to be returned to the wild on mainland Australia.
“We hope they settle in quickly, stay healthy and start to breed immediately,” said Darren Grover, WWF-Australia’s Head of Living Ecosystems.
“The loss of native species like eastern quolls has disturbed Nature’s balance. The goal is to see some eastern quoll populations permanently re-established in the wild on mainland Australia and it all starts at Booderee National Park,” he said.
Rob Brewster from Rewilding Australia said these first quolls will provide answers to crucial questions.
“We’ll discover which habitat type they prefer and if Booderee’s extensive fox control programs have been enough.
“This information could become the blueprint for how to re-introduce quolls to other mainland locations,” he said
Trowunna Wildlife Park and Devils@Cradle are part of the Tasmanian Quoll Conservation Program.
WWF-Australia has teamed with Rewilding Australia to help expand the enclosures at these two sanctuaries.
The Open Kora Fund has also assisted with the expansions. It’s estimated the larger enclosures will enable the birth of 40 additional quolls each year.
The boost to pups will be needed because if the release of 20 quolls into Booderee National Park next year is successful, they will be followed by 40 in 2019 and another 40 in 2020.
The released quolls will be GPS collared and monitored by Parks Australia staff and Australian National University ecologists linked to the Threatened Species Recovery Hub of the National Environmental Science Programme.
This attempt to re-establish eastern quolls is only possible because of years of fox control at Booderee.
Two other species – long-nosed potoroos and southern brown bandicoots – reintroduced to the park in the past two years are healthy and breeding.
Scientists will closely follow the eastern quolls to make sure foxes and feral cats have been sufficiently managed.
These small-mammal translocations are broad collaborations involving Parks Australia, the Australian National University, Taronga Zoo, Forestry Corporation of NSW, Rewilding Australia, WWF-Australia and the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Programme, with Shoalhaven Landcare providing Off Park support to ‘Eastern Shield’ – a wildlife recovery program focussing on improving habitat outside the National Park for reintroduced species.