News from the Field, Press Release

The Flying Quolls: vulnerable marsupials flown domestic to new home

14 Nov. 2023
Briana Verschoor/Taronga Western Plains Zoo

A collection of vulnerable Western Quolls (Chuditch) travelled cross-country on a commercial commute this week, as part of a wildlife translocation program to boost the species’ population at Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s (AWC) Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary (Badimia country) in the WA Wheatbelt.

The 12-hour journey from NSW to WA commenced at Taronga Westerns Plains Zoo in Dubbo, NSW where 11 quolls were selected from Taronga Conservation Society Australia’s successful breeding conservation program. The program commenced in 2022 with the aim of reintroducing the Western Quoll to conservation areas where the species has become locally extinct following European settlement. Since commencement of the program, Taronga has successfully bred 37 joeys, all intended for wildlife release.

 

A Western Quoll receives a health check prior to leaving Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo. Briana Verschoor/Taronga Western Plains Zoo
A Western Quoll receives a health check prior to leaving Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo.

 

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, conservation keepers moved the quolls from the breeding facility to purpose-built transport crates to commence the 4,000 kilometre journey from Dubbo to Perth via a combination of road and air travel, including Qantas domestic flight QF651.

Upon arrival in Perth, AWC Field Ecologist Robin Sinclair was waiting to welcome the quolls and transport them to Native Animal Rescue in Malaga, where they spent two nights undergoing monitoring prior to release.

 

The quolls touched down in Perth via Qantas flight QF651. Lucy Giesen/AWC
The quolls touched down in Perth via Qantas flight QF651.

 

On Friday, Robin returned to drive the quolls five hours outside of Perth to Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary, where they were fitted with VHF radio tracking collars before joining over 30 other Western Quolls that were released at the sanctuary in April and June. Collared individuals will be tracked using a drone with an advanced radio-telemetry system by Wildlife Drones.

“The cohort of 11 individuals were carefully selected from the conservation breeding program to ensure we inject genetically robust and diverse individuals into the newly established wild population at Mt Gibson,” explained Taronga Wildlife Conservation Officer, Rachael Schildkraut.

“Taronga is proud to collaborate with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy on reintroduction efforts for this critical native predator.”

 

the back windows of a vehicle which was used to transport 11 Western Quolls from Perth Airport to Native Animal Rescue. Lucy Giesen/AWC
AWC’s field team, Erin Barritt and Robin Sinclair, shield the back windows of a vehicle which was used to transport 11 Western Quolls from Perth Airport to Native Animal Rescue.

 

The Western Quoll is the 10th locally-extinct mammal species released at Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary as part of an ambitious reintroduction project. Since their return earlier this year, the quolls have adapted to the environment and even commenced breeding.

The sanctuary’s first joeys were recorded during a routine survey in August, with several females found carrying bean-sized joeys. One female was found carrying spotty twin pups which ecologists nicknamed Chudlets, merging Chuditch, the Noongar name for Western Quoll, with kidlets.

 

Camera traps were set up to monitor the quolls during their two-night stay atNative Animal Rescue in Perth. AWC
Camera traps were set up to monitor the quolls during their two-night stay at Native Animal Rescue in Perth.

 

“We are thrilled to see that Mt Gibson’s Western Quoll population has settled in and is showing promising signs of successful breeding,” said Georgina Anderson, AWC Senior Field Ecologist. “The new individuals from Taronga’s breeding program add to the genetic mix of our population. Our post-release monitoring efforts will be ramping up again to monitor these new individuals using a combination of radiotracking and remote cameras.”

AWC ecologists have been closely monitored the quoll population since the reintroduction through drone and ground-based radiotracking, camera traps, and ground surveys. The team has been able to keep track of almost all the quolls released earlier in the year, with 16 of the 18 collared individuals accounted for in recent weeks. This includes five of the more elusive individuals who were detected on a recent radiotracking flight over Mt Gibson and neighbouring properties. One individual, nicknamed Cuddlepie, made his way to the southernmost end of the site and had taken up residence in a rabbit warren.

 

August. The pouch young are among the first joeys to be recorded at the sanctuary. Erin Barritt/AWC
Five pea-sized joeys were discovered during a routine survey at Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary in August. The pouch young are among the first joeys to be recorded at the sanctuary.

 

“Through regular monitoring, we can see the quolls are doing well at the sanctuary and encountering the first pouch young is a positive sign that they have adjusted to the new environment,” added Georgina.

“One quoll that we’ve named Aang is a regular at camera traps we set up at the release sites. He is one of our largest and most striking quolls with a personality to match – often making rounds of multiple sites to collect the chicken we use as lures and disrupting our bait canisters.”

For more information on Taronga Conservation Society Australia’s Science and Conservation programs, click here.

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