What can you tell me about Quolls?

Posted on Posted in Cape York, Central Australia, Central QLD, East coast, Ferals, furry, Nocturnal, North QLD, NSW coast, South Australia

At a backyard BBQ last week I asked non-ecologist friends if they could tell me anything about the quoll. From a sample of 5: two people could give me nothing; two knew they were an Australian animal that had fur (it’s called a mammal guys) but would not hazard a guess if it was at the mouse or kangaroo end of the spectrum; and one went so far as to describe them as a native mammal, cat-size carnivore with spots…bingo!

So if you are like 4/5 of the people at my BBQ I’m here to fill you in. A lot has been happening in the world of quoll’s recently and it is pleasing to see them getting some media coverage. Politicians are even putting in their two cents!

So why are they interesting? Well…

Quolls are carnivorous marsupials (genus Dasyurus) with four species found in Australia and two in New Guinea. This skilled nocturnal hunter feeds on a variety of insects, frogs, small lizards, sometimes even possums, gliders and small wallabies and also (unfortunately) the cane toad. As a top-order predator they play a crucial role in the food chain and are essential to maintain a healthy, functioning ecosystem.

Did I mention they have spots? A tiger quoll or spotted-tail quoll (Dasyurus maculatus), the largest of the four Aussie species. (photo by Joshua Cunningham - http://www.flickr.com/photos/34547542@N08/3205125391/. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tiger_quoll_Featherdale.jpg#/media/File:Tiger_quoll_Featherdale.jpg)
Did I mention they have spots? A tiger quoll or spotted-tail quoll, the largest of the four Aussie species. (photo by Joshua Cunningham – http://www.flickr.com/photos/34547542@N08/3205125391)

Quolls have a short life span, but the male northern quoll (D. hallocatus) takes this to the extreme with their exceptional reproductive strategy, known as semelparity. Researchers have found that the males spend all of their time searching for females, fighting other males and mating like crazy. And once the job is done, the exhausted, starving male northern quoll withers away and dies, all before his first birthday.

What the Northern Quoll (D. hallucatus) lacks in size he makes up for in dedication to his extreme reproductive strategy. (photo by Wildlife Explorer - Picasa Web Albums. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
What the male northern quoll lacks in size he makes up for in dedication to his extreme reproductive strategy. (photo by Wildlife Explorer – Picasa Web Albums. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Despite their best reproductive efforts, all of the Australian quolls are in trouble.

In the north, quoll populations have suffered immensely due to cane toads. Other threats such as feral cats, poison baiting and loss of habitat have driven the eastern quoll (D. viverrinus) to extinction on the mainland and it is now only found in Tasmania. The northern (D. hallocatus), western (D. geoffroii) and tiger quoll (D. maculatus) species were once believed to be widespread but have all suffered from severe range contractions since European settlement.

Behind the scenes, hard-working folk are dedicated to research and conservation efforts to prevent any further decline.

One group of researchers at the University of Sydney managed to train quolls to avoid cane toads through taste aversion. In this study they fed juvenile quolls dead cane toads containing a nausea-inducing substance. When released in the wild the wised-up quolls had higher survival rates.

Last year an exciting reintroduction project began in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. The western quoll was reintroduced after becoming extinct from this region. So far it is looking like a success with 60 babies born in the first year and another batch of quolls to be added to the population this year.

The western quolls reintroduced into the Flinders Ranges in SA have successfully reproduced (photo by Katherine Moseby)
The western quolls reintroduced into the Flinders Ranges in SA have successfully reproduced (photo by Melissa Jensen)

The Ntaure Conservation Trust are runnign a campaign to save quoll habitat. Miriam Margoyles The Nature Conservation Trust is currently raising funds through their ‘Who is Quentin’ campaign to protect Tiger Quoll habitat.

If you are in the Sydney area and would like to support the cause Miriam Margolyes (professor Sprout from Harry Potter) will make a special appearance at Featherdale Wildlife Park during the Easter school holidays.  Details can be found here

 

10 thoughts on “What can you tell me about Quolls?

  1. I love Quolls – yet another extremely beautiful group of Australian animals needing our help, that the majority of Australians know nothing about, so thanks for the excellent article Heather :)

  2. Years ago when a certain government was elected I knew someone working on cane toads. His program was defunded, so therefore when someone from the the same party was foolish enough to engage me about voting for them in the local elections I told him that I certainly would not as his government had stopped research on cane toads and now in Kakadu they were killing quolls by the score. He said, without missing a beat ” ah quolls, lovely animals, they live on Rottnest don’t they?” Very depressing

    1. Good point Anne, it’s clear that we need to raise awareness about Quolls…they’re not Quokkas and not Quails!

  3. Great article about the beautiful Quolls – I often get people asking if I mean quails!
    However, what about the great work of the Eastern Quoll Mainland Recovery Team with partnerships in Tasmania seeking to establish strong populations in Reserves on the mainland (Mt Rothwell, Tiverton, Dunkeld, Woodleigh School in Victoria, Secret Creek in NSW and Tidbinbilla and Mulligans Flat in the ACT) with the intent to support the wild populations in Tassie and hopefully, one day, release them back into the wild on the mainland.

  4. There have been important community sightings of spotted tailed quolls in the area of Greenbank and North Maclean in Logan City Council in Greater Flagstone area. These sightings are the first since the 1930s, yet now the local government and state government are supporting a population growth of 120 000 + people . SAY NO TO INDUSTRY AT NOIRTH MACLEAN – URGENT please write to Mr Greg Hunt and request that industry his not approved for this area.

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