In 2018, the Eastern quoll (RiNU, for the ANiMOZ Rangers out there) was returned to the wild in New South Wales, after going extinct on the mainland 50 years ago.
This important predator of Australian forests and scrubland still survives in Tasmania, but human persecution and invasive species wiped them out on the mainland – leaving a quoll-shaped hole in the trophic ladder.
This remarkable feat of rewilding did not come about overnight: Rewilding Australia, along with a host of partners including WWF-Australia, worked for years on cooperative breeding programs, field research and government applications before it all came to fruition last year with 20 quolls being released into Boodooree National Park.
They had all been bred in captivity in Tasmania, and this had never been done before, meaning the team had no idea if the quolls would no how to fend for themselves when released.
Speaking to The Advocate recently, Rewilding Australia Director Rob Brewster said it didn’t go perfectly at the start but soon turned positive:
“In the first two months we had a reasonably high mortality rate however, after that initial period, we didn’t lose a single quoll to any of the key threats.
“A small population is very vulnerable to threats,” he said, “and it is a species that has a naturally high mortality rate… this population went through a steep learning curve and the quolls that came out on the other side have persisted really well in the National Park.”
It was fantastic news that some had survived those first few months, but what was to come was more than most could have hoped. The quolls bred.
In November last year, Rewilding Australia proudly announced that juvenile Eastern quolls – the first born in the wild on mainland Australia in half a century – were beginning to roam away from their mother to find food and explore the surroundings.
“They have gone on to demonstrate that Eastern Quolls bred in captivity can find food and shelter for themselves, they can evade predators, and can successfully find mates for breeding.”
Australia is facing a crisis, no question. We are driving our native animals to extinction through rampant deforestation, illegal persecution, invasive species – and not to mention climate change.
But projects like above go to show that all hope is not lost. We may be responsible for their declines, but we can also play a part in their recovery. Nature has shown time and again that, given the right support, wildlife can reestablish itself.
Brewster and the wider Rewilding Australia team, and other groups like Aussie Ark who are trialling similar reintroductions further north, are at the forefront of the one of the most exciting projects in Australian conservation. You can learn more about it on RA’s website here.
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