2014: The Year of the Western Quoll
April 1 2014 was not your ordinary April Fool’s Day.
In fact, April 1 2014 was the date of a remarkable achievement for Australian wildlife when the Western Quoll came back to arid Australia after local extinction of over 100 years.
The return of the Western Quoll to the Flinders Ranges was the result of a unique partnership, and the outcome of seven years of dogged persistence by one of Australia’s most visionary conservationists, Dr David Peacock.
David was a Ranger in the Flinders region of outback South Australia when the devastating impact of rabbits on the landscape first hit home, especially after seeing the immediate regeneration that occurred after calicivirus killed most of the rabbits. However rabbit control diseases like myxomatosis and calicivirus can only do so much as overtime rabbits develop resistance. On their own they have been generally unable to keep rabbits at a level that allows many palatable, often rare, native plants to re-establish.
It wasn’t until later when David was discussing the problem with his wife that he hit on the idea of bringing in a natural solution…why not bring back a native predator, long extinct in the region, that could go down rabbit burrows and penetrate inaccessible areas to predate these few but very damaging rabbits? David began to research the Western Quoll and to talk about his idea to anyone who would listen.
Despite the logic of David’s idea for a long time he could find no-one to provide the funds needed to bring back the quoll. Finally David found FAME, and we were inspired not just by the opportunity to help a unique Australian species, but also by the opportunity to restore a key predator to a damaged ecosystem and witness the flow-on effects to other species and the landscape in general.
FAME agreed to raise the money for a four year project and entered into partnership with the South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources to bring back the quoll. A budget of $1.7m over four years was set, and in 2012 FAME embarked on the biggest and one of the most important projects in our 20 year history.
And now, on April 1 2014, the first Western Quolls to be seen in the Flinders Ranges for over 100 years are out there settling into their new homes.
Western Quolls will be translocated from Western Australia to the Flinders Ranges in stages. Stage 1 on April 1 saw the return of 22 quolls, 18 of them females. 20 additional males were brought in on April 29th. Assuming that they settle in and begin to breed, the Flinders quoll population will be supplemented by further releases over the next few years. See more about this project at www.fame.org.au/projects/western-quoll