Eastern quoll returns to mainland Australia | News | DW | 15.03.2018
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Eastern quoll returns to mainland Australia

The eastern quoll, a small furry marsupial, had been considered extinct on mainland Australia for almost 50 years. In a conservation success story, 20 of the cute critters have been returned to their natural habitat.

Eastern quolls have been reintroduced to the wild in mainland Australia almost half a century after a combination of a mysterious epidemic and foxes devastated the population, the World Wildlife Fund Australia said on Thursday.

The small marsupial disappeared from the Australian mainland in the 1960s but could still be found on the island state of Tasmania in the country's southeast.

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"This is the first time in Australia that a carnivore extinct on the mainland has been re-introduced to the wild," said Darren Grover, head of living ecosystems at WWF-Australia.

"Most of the carnivores lost from the mainland are gone forever, it's not possible to bring them back, so this is a rare opportunity," Glover added.

The eastern quoll is about 37 centimeters (14.5 inches) long (excluding the tail) and weighs about 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs). They feed on insects, small mammals, birds and reptiles.

The eastern quolls are the third native species to be reintroduced to Booderee National Park on the New South Wales south coast following the release of long-nosed potoroos in 2014 and southern brown bandicoots in 2016. 

"For thousands of years eastern quolls played a part in the ecosystem as primarily insect-eaters. It will be fascinating to see what happens when they return to that role at Booderee."

Mysterious disappearance

An unknown epidemic in the 1900s killed off much of the eastern quoll population, which was then further devastated as foxes spread across south eastern Australia.

The eastern quolls were brought back to the mainland wild through a project from Rewilding Australia, partnered with Australian National University (ANU) researchers, Booderee National Park staff and traditional owners.

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Rewilding Australia, with support from WWF-Australia, the Taronga Conservation Society and Shoalhaven Landcare then worked with Tasmanian Quoll Conservation Program captive breeding centres to increase the quoll population to support a wild reintroduction.

ANU researcher Dr Natasha Robinson said the quolls had been fitted with GPS collars to ensure their progress could be closely monitored.

"Foxes, both outside and entering the park will also be monitored and managed with the aim of ensuring fox incursion to the park is very limited," Robinson said.

"This will help us understand how resilient the eastern quolls can be to very low densities of feral predators in the landscape," she added.

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