The first eastern quolls born in the wild on the Australian mainland in over 50 years have been found at Booderee National Park.
Pouch young were confirmed in three female quolls that were released into the park in March as part of a pilot program to reintroduce the native carnivore to the wild.
In March, 20 eastern quolls bred in a Tasmanian wildlife sanctuary were relocated to Booderee, on the NSW south coast, to study whether a wild reintroduction to mainland Australia was possible.
In the early 1900s the eastern quoll was abundant along the east coast, and although they survived in Tasmania, disease and feral animals wiped them out on the mainland half-a-century ago.
Eastern quolls were identified as a priority species in the Australian Government Threatened Species Strategy.
After more than 15 years of intensive fox management at Booderee National Park, additional funding mobilised through the Strategy created an opportunity to grow existing quoll recovery partnerships and establish a wild population on the mainland.
Booderee National Park Natural Resource Manager Nick Dexter said it was great to see the baby quolls in the park.
“Booderee has led a strong collaborations between scientists, conservationists and land managers toward the re-establishment of eastern quolls in the wild on the mainland,” Dr Dexter said. “There remains challenges ahead to establish a sustainable population, but to have 30 per cent of the female quolls produce pouch young from this pilot project is a move in the right direction.”
“From a science and ecological management perspective this project has already been successful. We’ve been tracking every animal in this project with a GPS collar, and unlike other translocation projects we’ve been able to quickly discover and manage threats. We’ve also learnt about the behaviour of these quolls, about their movements and preferred habitat.”
Australian National University researcher Natasha Robinson said they’d demonstrated several vital points needed for successful quoll reintroduction to the Australian mainland.
“We’ve proven the quolls can find food, shelter and breed,’’ Dr Robinson said. “We’ve also shown a capacity to make changes to improve the quolls survival rate. We’ve also got an excellent collaboration between government, non-government organisation, and research institutions for this project and we’re grateful for the strong community support.”
For several years, Booderee National Park has worked with Rewilding Australia and the Australian National University toward the reintroduction, while having tremendous support from WWF-Australia, the Taronga Conservation Society, Shoalhaven Landcare, the Tasmanian Quoll Conservation Program sanctuaries Devils@Cradle and Trowunna Wildlife Sanctuary.
Rewilding Australia’s Rob Brewster said they were keen to continue supporting the quoll reintroduction at Booderee.
“This is an immense collaborative effort, and having spoken to the local community and visitors to the park, there’s clearly a lot of enthusiasm and support behind continuing this journey toward establishing a wild population of eastern quolls at Booderee,” he said.
WWF-Australia’s Head of Living Ecosystems, Darren Grover, said the quoll pups, each just the size of a baked bean, were the most welcome sight imaginable for everyone involved in this project.
“They give us hope that there is a future for these feisty little marsupials back on the mainland where they belong,” Mr Grover said.
The Wreck Bay Community, the traditional owners of Booderee, has endorsed this project. The Threatened Species Recovery Hub of the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program is providing monitoring of the quolls and scientific support.
WWF-Australia media contact:
Mark Symons, WWF-Australia Senior Media Officer, 0400 985 571