Twenty eastern quolls were released at Booderee National Park at Jervis Bay on the NSW south coast in March.
Hailed as a landmark rewilding trial, it was the first time the eastern quoll had returned to the wild on the mainland since they were wiped out more than 50 years ago. Rewilding Australia director Rob Brewster said the organisation had had no data on what exactly would happen to the spotted marsupials when they were released to the wild, as a wild reintroduction had not been attempted before.
“Overall, it’s a reasonable result for a pilot trial and it provides us with a lot of valuable information on the real threat levels to eastern quolls on mainland Australia.”
Quolls were fitted with GPS/VHF collars, which allowed the project team to keep a close watch on each quoll. This has provided the team with valuable information on preferred habitat selection, home range size and the interactions between each quoll. It has also helped researchers better understand the threats to eastern quolls on mainland Australia.
Two of the unlucky quolls had a run-in with a diamond python — one was discovered in a python’s stomach and the other was found dead with a python tooth embedded in it. “We haven’t yet confirmed whether it was a direct result of that python attack, but we always knew that natural predation might play a role in impacting our very small population of eastern quolls,” Mr Brewster said.
Four of our quolls took up residence near some fairly busy roads and they were unfortunately hit by cars. “We always knew it was a potential threat but we didn’t think it would be as significant as it has been.”
At least three of the quolls likely fell victim to foxes, despite concerted baiting programs in the national park, and at least one other was taken by a domestic dog. Mr Brewster said while it was impossible to completely remove foxes from the area, they were ramping up efforts to control numbers outside the park. The cause of death of four others are being investigated, however predation is currently considered the most likely scenario.
Hope for baby quolls over coming months
“We know the boy quolls are very interested in the girl quolls at the moment. They’re moving between some built structures in the park that they’re sheltering in and they’re interacting”.
“Hopefully over the next couple of months our monitoring program will pick up some very small eastern quoll babies. That will be a very good sign for the project.”
The project team will now assess whether the threats can be limited enough to allow for a further round of quoll rewilding.
Download the Threatened Species Recovery Hub June 2018 update
Listen to Rewilding Australia’s Director on ABC News Radio
Can you help keep our team in the field by making a tax deductible donation?