Phase 3 - Native Species Return Repopulation of the Quoll and Phascogale to the Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges
The Western Quoll and Red-Tailed Phascogale are carnivorous marsupials native to South Australia and, as predators, have important roles to play in the health of the ecosystem. Sadly, both species were wiped out by a combination of invasive predators and extensive land clearing.
Now, there is new hope. The third phase of our Western Quoll reintroduction to South Australia’s regional northeast will see these two charismatic species return to their native home in the Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges.
Photo credit: Michael J Barritt
ABOUT THE WESTERN QUOLL
Idnya, or the Western Quoll (Dasyurus geoffroii), had been absent from South Australia for more than 100 years before our successful reintroduction in 2014. As the top order predator in their habitats, they play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.
Western Quolls are nocturnal hunters, closely related to the more famous Tasmanian Devil, and feed on various prey items including birds, small mammals and insects.
They are threatened by a number of factors including invasive predators, habitat loss and road fatalities, but have proven to be very capable of establishing themselves when given the chance.
The first two phases of our Idyna (Western Quoll) reintroduction to South Australia’s northeast are successfully complete, representing one of the world’s most successful predator reintroductions. This new phase will look to extend the quoll’s range into the Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges.
ABOUT THE RED-TAILED PHASCOGALE
This project will also pave the way for the return of the quoll’s smaller cousin, the Kenngoor or Red-Tailed Phascogale (Phascogale calura). This small, tree-dwelling hunter was previously found across much of Australia’s arid woodland from Western Australia and South Australia through to New South Wales.
The rapid spread of cats and foxes had a devastating impact on the species, which now finds itself restricted to a southern pocket of WA.
Featuring a rusty red tail longer than the rest of its body, the Kenngoor weighs about the same as a chicken egg and preys on a variety of insects, spiders and small birds. They are incredibly agile and elusive creatures, and will be important additions to our work restoring the region’s biodiversity.
PREVIOUS WORK TO REINTRODUCE THE WESTERN QUOLL AND BRUSH-TAILED POSSUM
Prior to 2014, the Idnya had not been recorded in the Ikara-Flinders Ranges for 130 years.
In April of that year, as part of a joint project between FAME and The Government of South Australia, 37 Western Quolls were released to see if the species could survive in the region.
Fortunately, the species has flourished in its former home and further releases in 2015 and 2016 strengthened the population significantly. The most recent population prediction estimates the population to be thriving.
RETURNING THE WESTERN QUOLL AND RED-TAILED PHASCOGALE TO THE VULKATHUNHA-GAMMON RANGES
In late 2021, Western Quolls and Red-Tailed Phascogales will be released in a phased reintroduction, making use of suitable habitat to boost their chances of early survival.
Due to existing and ongoing management programs for invasive cats, foxes and goats, large areas exist in the Gammon Ranges that have benefited from the recovery of native vegetation. This regeneration has created a complex, structural habitat which provides food species and appropriate shelter for the Idnya and Kenngoor.
These complementary factors - pest control and revegetation - maximise the potential for these reintroductions to succeed, allowing corridors through which the species can disperse.
Following the release, the species’ will be closely monitored through regular trapping surveys to determine survival rates and identify any potential breeding. This data will also help to inform the reasoning behind any declines, should they occur.
DNA samples will be collected during monitoring to assess genetic health of the reintroduced populations moving forward.
A DEPLETED ECOSYSTEM RETURNING TO LIFE
The mission to restore balance to South Australia’s northeastern ecosystems began with the first phase of this project seven years ago. Now, we see the fruits of that previous work through a detailed understanding of how reintroduced predators can be managed, and what makes it possible.
An important aspect of this is working with the right partners, which is why our collaboration with the Department of Environment and Water (DEW) continues.
Red-Tailed Phascogales, along with Western Quolls, have been identified as a suitable species with which to further this restoration of the region’s biodiversity.
WHY THIS PROJECT?
There are principally four reasons for importance of this project:
- it is what FAME does well and it is the type of project that strongly engages you, our supporters and donors,
- the project extends a successful collaboartion with DEW,
- given results thus far in the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, the prospect of success is very good for the two species, and
- the proejct has the suport of the local Adnyamthanha me nd women who will once again witness the return of their totems – the Idnya which are creation spirits of the Adnyamathanha Dreaming – to their natural habitat.
This third phase of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges reintroduction will turn our focus to the Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges, just to the north.
Working with DEW, the project aims to:
- Repopulate the remote Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges with Idnya
- Open up a habitat for the locally-extinct Kenngoor
- Continue monitoring of the released populations
- Build genetic data for ongoing management.
WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT
This critical work is made possible by donations from supporters like you. Please visit the donation page for this project to help us return the Western Quoll and Red-Tailed Phascogale to their traditional home in South Australia.
Images courtesy of Michael J Barritt/DEW