Aussie Ark’s fenced but wild Barrington Wildlife Sanctuary provides refuge and a healthy habitat for the Eastern quoll, free of feral predators.
Considered extinct on mainland Australia since 1963, the Eastern quoll has been part of Aussie Ark’s conservation breeding programs for many years now. And for the first time in more than 55 years, the species has been returned to its natural habitat in Barrington Tops by Aussie Ark staff.
Aussie Ark’s ultimate goal is to release individuals back into their historical wild environment and thus rewild Barrington Tops.
Like many other Australian native species, Eastern quolls were once found in NSW's Barrington Tops and were part of the Australian landscape, thriving for millenniums on the isolated continent. The arrival of European settlers, however, perturbed the natural balance of the aged ecosystem by introducing to the mainland a range of feral animals such as cats and foxes now competing with the local wildlife for habitat, food and shelter.
Predation from feral pests, habitat degradation and fragmentation, road strike threats, poisoning and trapping contributed to the demise of the species, eradicating wild populations of Eastern quolls from mainland Australia and leaving the remaining cluster to survive in Tasmania. The last Eastern quoll on the mainland is thought to have been killed in 1963. Across Tasmania, quoll numbers have declined by more than 50% since 2009 and are showing no signs of recovery. It is estimated more than less than 10,000 Eastern quolls are left on the island, with numbers rapidly falling.
Refusing to allow this species to go extinct without a fight,Aussie Ark instated in 2018 its first-ever breeding program for the endangered Eastern quoll at its facility in Barrington Tops. For the past two years, Aussie Ark staff have been working tirelessly towards establishing a strong insurance population of Eastern quolls to ensure their survival. Through thorough monitoring and management, Aussie Ark has successfully bred this vulnerable species and presently holds almost 90 individuals, a number that grows with every breeding season.
Aussie Ark’s ultimate goal is to then release these individuals back into their historical wild environment and thus rewild Barrington Tops. With the aim to do such, Aussie Ark released a group of 28 endangered Eastern quolls into its wild and predator-free Barrington Wildlife Sanctuary, making this group the first of their species to be reintroduced to that region in more than 55 years.
The return of Eastern quolls in the habitat where they have been extinct for decades represents a mammoth step in the right direction for the species for numerous reasons.
“These kinds of historic releases are the result of the impressive long-term vision and commitment of the Aussie Ark team,” said Don Church, President of Global Wildlife Conservation, who supported this release. “By strategically reintroducing the right species in the right habitats, Aussie Ark is leading the way on rewilding Australia, restoring the ecosystems to their original state. This benefits not only the quolls, the ecosystems in which they live, and Australia, but helps ensure a healthier planet for all life on Earth.”
Aussie Ark’s breeding program for the endangered species will secure Eastern quolls in the wild on mainland Australia, free from the threats of introduced predators. The Barrington Wildlife Sanctuary will also prepare quolls for re-wildling of quolls into other regions of Australia.
Aussie Ark has identified the Eastern quoll as a key species because it plays an important role. The species scavenge on carrion on the forest floor and assist in maintaining balance within their ecosystem as a natural predator.
As a predator, Eastern quolls perform a valuable role. While the main component of their diet is spiders, cockroaches and grasshoppers, these small mammals are also impressive hunters. Their appetite for rabbits, mice and rats helps keep the populations of these pests under control and maintains a natural balance in the ecosystem, making their mainland extinction even sadder.
Eastern quolls were once part of the Australian landscape for millions of years and were commonly found throughout the open forests, woodlands, grasslands and shrublands across much of the southeast mainland of Australia, from the eastern coasts of South Australia, through most of Victoria, to the north coast of New South Wales, and Tasmania. The last known Eastern quoll individual was sadly road-killed in 1963.
Aussie Ark with the support of partner organisations, like Global Wildlife Conservation, have the know-how and ability to change the fate of Australian wildlife. A wilder future is on the horizon for Australia with Aussie Ark.