Threatened Species Commissioner recognises SSAA for helping western quoll reintroduction

The SSAA has been recognised by the Federal Government’s Threatened Species Commissioner, Gregory Andrews, for helping in the reintroduction of western quoll in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges. SSAA National donated $60,000 to the cause. The article ‘Quoll of the wild: touchdown at new home for precious cargo’, published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 11 May 2015, details more about the relocation.

“This might be them.” An airplane engine faintly grumbles in the distance. It is just on dusk in the Flinders Ranges and nearly forty VIPs from Western Australia are due to land.

They are friends of ecologist Kathryn Moseby, who has been preparing for their arrival in Wilpena Pound. As the light plane slows along the dirt tarmac there are cheers from the welcoming party: finally the precious cargo is safe on solid ground.

Thirty-seven western quolls, stacked neatly in individual boxes, have flown almost 12 hours to reach Wilpena, an area where they have been extinct for the last 100 years.

Wilpena Pound, the red eye of the Flinders Ranges National Park, is a natural amphitheatre of mountains more than 400km north of Adelaide, and now once again the home of the endangered western quoll.

The marsupial carnivore once covered 70 per cent of Australia, however, declining land condition and feral cat and fox attacks have seen the western quoll confined to Western Australia - until now.

Ms Moseby has spent the last year working to reintroduce the western quoll to the Flinders Ranges National Park, no mean feat in the unfenced plains of the Flinders.

“Most re-introductions fail in Australia, especially into unbounded release sites,” she said.

“The unusual thing here is it's actually working without a fence, which is pretty incredible. A lot of that is fox control... cat control as well.”

The reintroduction program was trialled in April last year, when 41 western quolls were flown in from Western Australia. The trial was deemed a success, losing only 11 quolls to feral animal attacks and resulting in the birth of 25 baby western quolls. “We think the population is around 60 at the moment. To get an increase in one year is pretty amazing.”

Stage one of the program launched this week, with the release of another 37 quolls in the area, supported by funding from the Foundation for Australia's Most Endangered Species (FAME).

The quolls will be monitored via radio collars for around six months, while a third drop of quolls is expected to happen next year.

“It's a flagship program for us. If it succeeds, as it seems to be doing at this point, it is going to indicate a forward direction for Australian wildlife,” said Cheryl Hill, CEO of FAME, which has raised $1.3 million of the $1.7 million needed for the program.

FAME partnered with the South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) for the program, which for 23 years has conducted the Bounceback program, dedicated to land management and tackling feral animals.

Australia's first threatened species commissioner Gregory Andrews said it would not have been possible without strong collaboration between different groups.

“Here we have an opportunity...because of 20 years of consistent effort by state government, national parks, the rangers, the Indigenous people and even the Sporting Shooters Association,” he said.

Ms Moseby said the program teaches an important lesson about land condition in Australia.

“I think we’re losing the fight. I think land condition is still in decline, and we’re still clearing vegetation in Queensland. We’re still increasing cattle intensity and cattle grazing, we’re still [continuing] bad burning practices in the Northern Territory,” she said.

“Until that improves, threatened species are not going to improve, because that’s the baseline that everything impinges on.”

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