Eastern Quoll © Shutterstock / Martin Pelanek / WWF

Eastern Quoll © Shutterstock / Martin Pelanek / WWF

The secrets scat keeps: Scat Chat episode two run down

12 Sep 2022

Keywords
  • quolls
  • threatened species
  • Regenerate Australia
Scat Chat with WWF-Australia, hosted by me, Carlo Ritchie. Every episode of Scat Chat with WWF I get to the bottom of all the things that animal scat - or poo - can teach us about the animals that made it. Listen now for free at wwf.org.au/scatchat.

Scat Chat body image

Anyone who says you can’t describe a poo as sparkly, has clearly never encountered the scat of an eastern quoll.

 

The scat of the eastern quoll is so lovely, my guest this week advised me that “getting up close and having a good look, is definitely the way to go.” However, he did advise not to keep it in your fridge overnight as you will have to throw out the fridge - clearly some personal experience there.

 

On the second episode of the new podcast, Scat Chat with WWF, I caught up with WWF-Australia’s Rewilding Program Manager, Rob Brewster, to trade stories, have a laugh and discuss all things about the sparkling scatof the eastern quoll.

 

But before we get too into the details, what exactly is an eastern quoll?

I like to describe them as “cheeky little cats with pockets”, which is a wonderful visual but doesn’t really tell us much. Rob Brewster summed them up beautifully in the episode, when he said that an “eastern quoll is a native Australian mammal, which comes in two colour forms: jet black with beautiful white spots or an orangey tan colour with beautiful white spots. It weighs only one to two kilograms, it's got a pouch, and can have up to six young a year. An enigmatic, charismatic, beautiful Australian animal.”

 

And let me tell you if you thought the quoll itself was interesting, wait until you hear about its scat!

 

Long and thin, like the scat of a small dog, eastern quoll scat is, thanks largely to their diet of bugs and beetles, really shiny and even glistens in the sun.

 

Rob explained, “The eastern quoll is a carnivore, but enjoys snacking on insects a lot of the time too, particularly in summer when there are lots around. So, there are often lots of Christmas beetle parts in quoll scat, as well as cicadas, and parts of cicada wings.”

 

But, it’s not just visually interesting. According to Rob, hidden inside these nuggets of scat are bigger, more important nuggets, nuggets of information.

 

“Using scats and tracks to monitor our wildlife is something that Indigenous Australians have been doing for millennia, and, using that Indigenous Ecological Knowledge in our rewilding programs is really important to us. It's using practical, on-the-ground strategies to complement our science-based strategies to monitor our wildlife.”

 

He continued, “Eastern quoll scat tells us a lot about ecosystem health more broadly. So, in summer we'd expect to see lots of sparkly, beetle parts and other insects in it. If we're moving into winter, those insect parts drop off a little, and we might see a little bit more fur. They scavenge on dead animals; they might eat the occasional bird, even. So, if we’re not seeing those animals, for instance, if we're not seeing many insects in their scat in summer, it tells us a bit about what's happening to insect populations. So, yeah, it's a really interesting scat as an indicator of broader ecosystem health.”

 

Eastern quoll joeys in carers hands - banner  © WWF-Australia / Laurent Desarnaud

 

However, if you were hoping to walk outside and see your path sparkling with thousands of these droppings, I’ve got bad news for you. As Rob told me in our chat; today, the only place keen scat searchers can catch a glimpse of this shiny scat is way down south, in Tasmania.

 

Just over 50 years ago, eastern quolls were found across much of the southeast mainland of Australia. Tragically, however, in the 1960s, either through predation from dogs and foxes, the increased use of cars, or the introduction of disease, the mainland population of the ‘farmer’s friend’ as they were once known, simply disappeared. In fact, one of the last populations on the east coast was at Nielsen Park in Vaucluse, in Sydney.

 

But you don’t just give up on something that has such fascinating faeces and such a big role to play in the ecosystem, no sir.

 

In 2018 and 2019, WWF-Australia, together with a host of partners, helped trial a reintroduction of eastern quolls to mainland Australia. Over two years, 60 quolls were translocated from breeding programs in Tasmania to Booderee National Park in Jervis Bay, on the south coast of New South Wales. For years we saw eastern quoll populations once again thrive in their historic home, as the pioneering quolls successfully bred the first mainland eastern quolls in decades, and their offspring went on to have offspring.

 

However, in January 2021, surveys revealed that the eastern quoll has once again perished from the landscape. During the years the eastern quolls lived on the mainland again, valuable lessons were learned about the species. Higher numbers of tougher quolls, with the skills to hunt and scavenge were needed. So testing a strategy to transition captive-bred quolls to the wild is now the priority.

 

While work to rewild the eastern quoll into areas where feral predators are managed isn’t over, other wildlife reintroductions have begun in other parts of Australia, with the brush-tailed bettongs on Yorke Peninsula, South Australia, as part of an ongoing project called Marna Banggara.

 

If shiny scat made by spotty pyjama-wearing cats is something you’d like to hear more about, make sure to download and listen to Episode 2 of the new podcast, Scat Chat with WWF. It’s full of facts, faeces and folly, as well as the story about a storage situation that cost Rob Brewster his fridge. Have a laugh and learn a little, with me, Carlo Ritchie, host of Scat Chat with WWF, and all-round scat connoisseur.

Listen now on your favourite podcast platform!

Listen on Apple Podcast  Listen on Spotify  Listen on Google podcasts

 

 Or watch the episodes on YouTube.

 

If you’d like to get more involved in work to rewild and Regenerate Australia, there’s a lot we can all do even in our own backyards.

 

• Discover the animals who live in your backyard by searching WWF’s new 'My Backyard' tool' and find out how you can help them thrive in the wild.
Plant native trees and plants in your backyard or balcony and help rewild your neighbourhood. Every action helps wildlife thrive.
• Go for a bushwalk and look for the scat at your feet! It could be a koala, possum or quoll!
• Sign up to Regenerate Australia and discover more ways to get involved.

 

Until next time, remember, all that glitters is not gold, but sometimes, it’s even better.

We would like to thank the following partners:

The work to rewild eastern quoll is in collaboration with Parks Australia, Australian National University, Taronga Conservation Society, and the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council.


The Marna Banggara project is jointly funded through the Northern and Yorke Landscape Board, the Australian Government, the South Australian Department for Environment and Water, WWF-Australia and Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife.


Other partners actively involved in developing and delivering the project include Regional Development Australia, South Australian Tourism Commission, Zoos SA, FAUNA Research Alliance, BirdLife Australia, Nature Conservation Society of SA, Narungga Nation Aboriginal Corporation, Primary Producers SA, Primary Industries and Regions SA, Conservation Volunteers Australia, Legatus Group, Yorke Peninsula Council, Yorke Peninsula Tourism and Scientific Expedition Group.

 

Get involved

{{thankYouPopup.firstname}} {{thankYouPopup.lastname}}

Thank you for your {{thankYouPopup.isMonthly ? 'monthtly' : ''}} donation of ${{ thankYouPopup.amount }}

Please check your email for confirmation

{{thankYouPopup.certificatename}}

If you have any questions about your donation, please do not hesitate to contact our friendly Supporter Services team either by email: enquiries@wwf.org.au or call 1800 032 551

Share this page with your friends and family to help endangered animals even more.