“It was a pretty emotional time actually,” said Darren Grover, WWF-Australia Head of Living Ecosystems. He was referring to the moment the boxes containing 20 eastern quolls were taken off the plane and opened in their new home in Jervis Bay.
Bred in Tasmania these pioneer quolls were taking a giant step back onto the Australian mainland, having been extinct there for 50 years.
“Watching them take their first tentative steps, seeing them look around at their new surroundings and sniff the air was exciting stuff… for us and them,” Darren said. “There was a real sense of making history. It was a privilege to be part of something important that could be a forerunner to further translocations elsewhere for eastern quolls, and other species.”
Now, a few weeks after their translocation, all 20 eastern quolls are going strong. We know this thanks to the GPS collars they’re wearing that are monitoring their wellbeing.
“The idea was to let them get comfy in their new home and then, by end of April-May, it’s breeding season and they’re ready to go.”
Like most small marsupials, eastern quolls have quite short gestation periods and by the time they’re eight to nine months old (like all the new Jervis Bay quolls) they’ve reached sexual maturity.
When asked about the issue of feral predators in the area Darren said, “From a geographical point of view, there’s a narrow neck of entry into Jervis Bay. This means that controlling cats and foxes is easier but it’s still a matter of being vigilant. With ongoing commitment from Booderee National Park staff feral maintenance will be kept up.”
These quolls are not the first locals to be reintroduced into the park. The southern brown bandicoot was introduced back in 2012 and 2014/2015 saw the rewilding of the long-nosed potoroo.
“Actually, it was the success of these two that set the ball in motion for bringing back the eastern quoll to the mainland,” Darren explained. “The plan is to keep monitoring, see how they’re breeding and possibly fly in another 40 of the little guys in 2019.”