Last updated June 25, 2018 at 11:33 am
Cars and foxes take their toll.
The first 20 Eastern Quolls released into the wild in NSW earlier this year have had mixed results, successfully feeding and gaining weight, but more than half were killed by cars and foxes.
Eastern Quolls, once common, have been extinct on the mainland for 50 years. In March 2018, the group was released into the Booderee National Park in March.
It’s not simply a matter of opening a box and sending the quolls on their way, though.
From tracking, camera traps and scat (poo) analysis, the quolls have been intensively monitored. Most stayed close to where they were initially released – a good sign indicating that there’s enough suitable food and habitat for them there.
They’ve also been captured and weighed, and after an initial small weight loss, they all gained weight foraging on their natural diet of insects and small animals.
Quolls are no match for cars or foxes
Three months later, though, only six of the original group are still alive.
Six females and eight males died, mostly from predation. Two quolls were eaten by feral foxes and dogs. Two were attacked by diamond pythons (one was eaten, one later died of infection). Four quolls were hit by cars and killed, and in four other cases, the cause of death is unknown.
The remaining quolls have been moved out of high-risk areas with roads, and park managers are planning on installing quoll road sign warnings to try and reduce the likelihood of them ending up as roadkill.
Foxes are a pest species that the Booderee National Park has been trying to control for over 15 years.
Both foxes and quolls are attracted to carrion, and both use tracks to move through the envrionment and so the park managers have been installing camera traps along these paths to monitor and quickly identify any foxes that get into the National Park.
Despite the mortality rate, the National Park team say they have learned a lot about how to massively improve the chance of success for future reintroductions.