The Aussie bush was once full of cute, furry creatures. But these days, quolls, bandicoots and bettongs have a hard time keeping safe from feral foxes and wild dogs. So how can we protect our native animal friends?
Out at Mulligan’s Flat Woodland Sanctuary on the outskirts of Canberra, the rangers built fences to protect the native wildlife. The fences are great at keeping ferals out – bettongs and bandicoots are safe in the reserve. But the rangers discovered a flaw in their fence when they recently added quolls to the population. Fences will keep the nasties out, but they don’t keep the natives in.
It turns out that quolls are really good at climbing. Of the 14 quolls released into the reserve, about half of them escaped. A few were recaptured, but four were killed by feral predators. Luckily, not all the quolls are so adventurous. The scientists in charge think that eight quolls have found dens and settled in.
If it’s dangerous for the quolls, why bring them back at all? One reason is for experimental purposes. The woodland sanctuary shows what local ecosystems might have been like before native species were eliminated. By studying the sanctuary, scientists can learn what’s missing in most of today’s forests. They can then use this information to help manage and improve other forests.
There’s also another, deeper, reason to study the quolls. Eastern quolls used to live all over south-eastern Australia. Now, they are only found in Tasmania. If foxes become established on Tasmania, the quoll could become extinct. So, the new colony is a backup in case of disaster.
If you’re after more science news for kids, subscribe to Double Helix magazine!