Half a century after vanishing from mainland Australia, eastern quolls (Dasyurus viverrinus) are set to make a triumphant comeback. Marking the first quoll release since their disappearance from mainland Australia in 1953, eastern quolls will call Booderee National Park in Jervis Bay, New South Wales, their new home.
As one of six existing species of quolls, eastern quolls feed on a carnivorous diet of birds, insects, small mammals, and reptiles. Growing to the size of a small domestic cat, this furry marsupial is the only species of quoll to have four toes—not five—on each of its hind legs. Their waning numbers were in part due to their habitat being destroyed by deforestation. They are also the unfortunate prey of choice for feral cats and foxes.
Overseen by Parks Victoria, Australian National University, Rewilding Australia and Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council, this project will rehome 40 eastern quolls into this national park next year.
“We want to get a top order predator back into the park, so we can restore the ecosystem. The quolls eat spiders, cockroaches, that sort of thing, and may also take out rabbits, which is a good thing in terms of pests,” said head of Rewilding Australia Rob Brewster to the Guardian. “We want them to breed and disperse. We’d hope that having them back will be a big community engagement tool. We can involve communities in better protection of vegetation because they’ll have this species in the vicinity."
Rewilding Australia wants to take animal conservation to the next level by actively rehousing species into their natural habitat, such as the Tasmanian devil and the dingo. With the promotion of environmental education, Rewilding Australia hopes that nearby communities will learn about and take better care of their surrounding wildlife.
However, it’s unlikely that the eastern quolls’ numbers will grow to their previously established figures without an imposed cull of their feral predators. Seeking to tackle this threat, the Australian Government are holding a threatened species summit in July to further discuss the reintroduction and sustainability of wildlife, such as the eastern quoll.