Ten ‘toad-smart’ quolls will be released in Kakadu’s Mary River District this week and up to 30 in 2016 as part of a three-year expansion project to repopulate the threatened species in the park. The Australian Government is funding a project to train ‘toad-smart’ quolls which will be highly beneficial in re-establishing a population of quolls in southern Kakadu and helping the species recover.
Quolls were relocated from the 1200 hectare Astell Island in the Northern Territory and taken to the Territory Wildlife Park where they were trained to avoid eating poisonous cane toads. The Astell Island population of northern quolls is an interesting story in itself. When cane toads were rapidly moving west, through the Northern Territory in the early 2000’s, a decision by the Northern Territory and Federal Governments to introduce quolls to Astell Island was made. In 2003, 45 quolls were released on the island, and by 2008 the population had increased 142 fold, to almost 5000 quolls. The project has been an enormous success and has paved the way for the current the current reintroductions to Kakadu.
This project follows an experimental program in 2010 where ‘toad-smart’ quolls were successfully released into the East Alligator District.
Monitoring showed that the ‘toad-smart’ females not only survived and reproduced but that the new generations learnt to avoid eating cane toads. This resulted in a five-fold increase in the localised population of quolls. “It is fantastic to see the success of this innovative program to protect Australia’s small mammals,” Minister Hunt said. “The expansion of this project shows the Turnbull Government’s commitment to ensuring that populations of threatened species can not only survive but thrive. “This is extremely important work. Without focused conservation initiatives such as this it would be unlikely the species would recover for the foreseeable future.”
Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews said the project was part of a $750,000 investment under the Threatened Species Strategy that aimed to make Kakadu safe again for native animals and plants. “Quolls are an iconic carnivorous Australian marsupial and an incredibly important part of our ecosystem,” Mr Andrews said. “By teaching the quolls not to eat cane toads and making Kakadu safe for them from feral cats, we can ensure their survival in this important world heritage-listed area.”
Parks Australia, Director of National Parks, Sally Barnes said the research at Kakadu National Park had shown that each generation of quolls learnt to avoid cane toads. “We are thinking this will only need to be done once to protect quoll populations from cane toads as each generation learns to avoid them,” Ms Barnes said. “The Kakadu research shows us that ‘toad-smart’ quolls can be reintroduced after a cane toad invasion.