An experimental research project led by researchers from The AustralianNational University (ANU) has found a new way to boost the survival rates ofeastern quolls reintroduced to the Australian Capital Territory.
The eastern quoll, a small carnivorous marsupial, was once widespread insoutheastern Australia.
Last seen on the mainland in 1967, eastern quolls became extinct due topredation by introduced foxes and cats, habitat loss, disease, accidentalpoisoning, and deliberate interference by humans. Luckily, populationspersisted in Tasmania.
According to PhD scholar Belinda Wilson, the first quolls reintroduced to theMulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary in 2016 had a survival rate of only 29 percent.
“Through a novel and adaptive approach, we were able to boost survival to 77per cent in the second trial, and then to 88 percent by the third trial,” MsWilson said.
“In 2016 we released both males and females, but most of the males escaped thesanctuary fence and were killed by foxes.
“In the second release, we trialled releasing only mothers with small pouchyoung. This meant that the quolls settled into the sanctuary so they couldraise their young.”
Ms Wilson said the results from the second and third releases far exceeded herexpectations, as well as those of the rest of the team.
“This is a really exciting result and gives us the courage to expect thateastern quolls will make a comeback to the ACT and beyond,” Ms Wilson said.
“It also demonstrates the value of adapting our tactics over multiple trialsand learning as you go.
“In our case using females with pouch young helped us bring in genetics frommultiple parents while encouraging the quolls to settle into their new home.
“We hope this will encourage other practitioners across the world to thinkabout their tactics, embrace uncertainty, and adapt based on what theenvironment tells them.”
The project is a collaboration between ANU, ACT Government, ACT Woodlands andWetlands Trust, and Odonata, and was supported by an Australian ResearchCouncil Linkage grant and Tasmania’s Department of Primary Industry, Parks,Water and Environment.
The first release at Mulligans Flat in 2016 involved 14 quolls.
Half came from the wild in Tasmania, and half were bred in captivity byproject partners at Odonata’s Mt Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centrein Victoria, where the first reintroduction to the mainland took place in2002.
The final release of eastern quolls to Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary tookplace in winter 2019, with a fourth generation of pups expected to emerge inOctober 2020.
The research has been published in _PLOS One. _
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