Eastern quolls haven't been seen on the Australian mainland for over half a century. However, thanks to a project that started this week, these polka dot marsupials could be making a comeback.
On March 1, researchers released 14 eastern quolls into Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary, Canberra as part of a AUS $1.8 million (US $1,297,800) government project with the Australian National University, the James Cook University, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
Although the species has continued to live happily on the island of Tasmania, they have not been seen in the wild on the mainland for more than 50 years. Once abundant in south-eastern Australia, eastern quolls (Dasyurus viverrinus) are skittish carnivores that grow to around 35 centimeters (13 inches).
The introduced eastern quolls were transported from Tasmania in the space of one day. Over the next two years, the researchers will monitor the quolls using radio-tracking collars with the aim of introducing an additional 64 individuals: half will be captivity-bred in Victoria, and the other half from the wild in Tasmania.
The reason for the eastern quoll’s decline is unclear, according to the IUCN Red List. However, it has been speculated that an increase in roads and introduced predators, such as feral cats and red foxes, could be a factor.
“The eastern quoll was once widespread across south-eastern Australia but became victim to clearing, grazing, introduced predators and control programs,” Simon Corbell, the deputy chief minister of the Australian Capital Territory, told City News.
He added, “Despite being shy and nocturnal the introduction of this small carnivore could ultimately help with rabbit population control. Because of their role in helping to regulate prey species, quolls and other predators are disproportionately important in the functioning of ecosystems, so this is an important milestone in the sanctuary’s ongoing restoration.”
[H/T: The Guardian]