New photos reveal reintroduced eastern quoll populations are persisting in Booderee National Park, after being threatened by catastrophic bushfires, and low densities of the European red fox that threatens the survival of so many of Australia's small mammals.
Booderee National Park, owned by the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community and jointly managed by Parks Australia, is on the southern side of Jervis Bay.
This was an ideal place for reintroduction as it boasts an abundance of suitable habitat and the most intensive fox control program in eastern Australia.
The eastern quoll might be little known but as predators, these feisty marsupials have a valuable role to play in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.
While the main component of their diet is invertebrates such as spiders, cockroaches, beetles and grasshoppers, they are also capable hunters.
Their appetite for mice and rats and even rabbits helps manage populations of these species and ensures ecosystems remain healthy.
Eastern quolls have been functionally extinct on mainland Australia for over 50 years and until recently could only be found in Tasmania.
That is until 2018 when WWF-Australia (World Wildlife Fund) and partners began a program to reintroduce quolls from Tasmania, all the way to Booderee National Park.
Two of these relocated quolls were Snark and Violet.
Now, two years on these girls were spotted recently on camera, thriving in the wild, while a third female, Indie, introduced last year has also made a recent appearance.
WWF-Australia head of Healthy Land and Seascapes Darren Grover said it was a positive sign for the long-term future of the eastern quoll on mainland Australia, whose habitat managed to narrowly escape the devastating bushfires that hit the surrounding area earlier this year.
"It's fantastic to hear that two of the original quoll pioneers are still going strong - and, even better, that their habitat in Booderee National Park wasn't impacted by the recent summer fires.
"Our partners, Parks Australia and Rewilding Australia have been visionary in their goal to re-establish the eastern quoll in the wild on the Australian mainland.
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"In anticipation of the fires extending into Booderee, WWF supported Parks Australia and Rewilding Australia to implement a quoll protection and fire preparedness plan that would have been enacted if the fires reached the quoll population and would have sought to save many quolls from perishing in the flames."
WWF has also supported fox monitoring across the Jervis Bay region.
"While thousands of animals were killed by the fires, foxes would have been one species that could evade the flames," Mr Grover said.
"With their habitat lost, it was feared that foxes may have been on the move, exposing eastern quolls to an increased level of predation.
"By monitoring fox numbers outside the park, as well as ongoing monitoring by Parks Australia any increase in activity can be quickly detected and allow for fox control measures to be swiftly deployed."
Rewilding Australia director Rob Brewster said the results provide a way forward for the species on the mainland, with the project providing valuable lessons when it comes to species reintroduction.
"Since the quolls' release two years ago we've learnt a lot," he said.
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"Despite the initial high mortality of quolls released into the park from a range of threats - including foxes, domestic dogs, cars and pythons - these quolls have demonstrated they can indeed learn to survive and breed in the wild where foxes and other threats are managed in the landscape.
"These quolls are true trailblazers and have taught the research team, led by ANU's Fenner School of Environment and Society, a vast amount about how to improve future reintroductions of species that provide such an integral role in the landscape."
Booderee National Park Natural Resource Manager Nicholas Dexter, said while the national park is currently closed due to COVID-19, Booderee was using it as an opportunity to progress a program to target any remaining foxes that could pose a threat to the quolls.