The journey to re-establish a wild population of eastern quolls on the Australian mainland has taken another big step forward with a further 40 quolls being reintroduced to Booderee National Park.
Booderee, which is managed by traditional owners and Parks Australia near Jervis Bay, part of an ambitious project to bring the species back to the wild on the Australian mainland.
Although eastern quolls still live in the wild in Tasmania, the species had not been seen alive in the wild on the mainland for more than 50 years until last year when 20 eastern quolls were reintroduced into Booderee as part of a pilot project.
Stage two release took place on Tuesday and Thursday last week.
The success of that first reintroduction, which led to eastern quolls being born and raised in the wild, has allowed Parks Australia and its partners to move ahead with introducing more quolls to the park this year.
Booderee National Park natural resource manager Nick Dexter said this was an exciting time for the project.
"The journey is well underway to bring eastern quolls back to Booderee National Park. Parks Australia has led strong collaborations between scientists, conservationists and land managers toward the re-establishment of a species that was once abundant on the east coast of the Australian mainland," Dr Dexter said.
"Our fox control programs over more than 15 years have given us the chance to bring this species back to their native habitat.
It would be a wonderful outcome to have a permanent population of eastern quolls in Booderee National Park but we also need to continue to manage expectations as this remains a challenging project."
In the early 1900s the species was common along the east coast before disease and feral animals wiped them out on the mainland half-a-century ago.
Australian National University project leader Natasha Robinson said from a science and ecological management perspective this project has already been successful.
"We've demonstrated several vital points needed for successful quoll reintroduction to the Australian mainland," Dr Robinson said.
"We've proven the quolls can find food, shelter, breed and raise young.
"We've also shown that the project can adapt to improve the quolls' survival rate. We tracked the 20 quolls introduced last year with GPS collars and quickly discovered and managed threats."
Rewilding Australia's Rob Brewster said with such a large number of eastern quolls coming to Booderee, it's likely that people will begin to see them more often.
"Half of the quolls will be tracked with radio collars and they'll be monitored closely over the first couple of months," Mr Brewster said.
Taronga Conservation Society veterinary pathologist Dr Karrie Rose, who leads the quoll health assessments, said she was pleased with the condition of quolls prior to their release.
"This is another significant step in an important restorative initiative for the species and its former habitat," Dr Rose said.
Aussie Ark president, Tim Faulkner said Aussie Ark is incredibly proud to be a part of this landmark release.
"Eastern quolls once roamed the mainland of Australia and deserve the right to again call it home," he said.
"We've put a lot of hard work and dedication towards breeding these quolls and wish them all the best."
The timing of the release coincides with reduced annual fox activity, reduced risk from paralysis ticks and in time for quolls to familiarise themselves with the new surrounds before the June breeding season.
WWF-Australia's Head of Living Ecosystems, Darren Grover, said seeing eastern quolls running wild on the mainland again was an incredible sight.
"This project gives us hope that there is a future for these feisty little marsupials back on the mainland where they belong," Mr Grover said.
The eastern quoll reintroduction project is a collaboration between Parks Australia, The Australian National University, the National Environmental Science Programme Threatened Species Recovery Hub, Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council, Rewilding Australia, WWF-Australia and the Taronga Conservation Society Australia with support from Devil@Cradle, Trowunna Wildlife Sanctuary and Aussie Ark wildlife sanctuaries.
Booderee National Park is owned by the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community and this project was endorsed by the Booderee National Park Joint Board of Management.
The Threatened Species Recovery Hub of the Australian Government's National Environmental Science Program are supporting the project.