Endangered Australian Species Series - Northern Quoll 📽
The Quoll is the largest surviving carnivorous marsupial on mainland Australia and the second largest in the world. Only the ‘Tasmanian Devil’ is larger, found on the island of Tasmania off the southern coast of mainland Australia.
There are four species of Quoll in Australia, the Eastern Quoll, Tiger Quoll, Western Quoll and Northern Quoll. They vary in length from 25 to 75cm and weigh between 300g and 7kg. They have brown or black fur with clearly visible white spots and cute pink noses - and that is deceiving, because they have many sharp little teeth. Three species are classified as “near threatened” (population stable), but the Northern Quoll - also known as the ‘North Australian native cat’ (satanellus or the njanmak) - is on the “endangered species” list (in decline) and the smallest of the four species. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_quoll
The population of Northern Quolls in Kakadu National Park has been estimated to be in the order of 80 000 individuals, of which 20% is thought to have been lost to date following the invasion of the Cane Toad. Apr 12, 2005 (Environment.gov.au)
Courtesy: https://wildlife.org.au/northern-quoll/ Habitat: Rocky areas are prime habitat for northern quolls. Broad range of dry sclerophyll (type of vegetation that has hard leaves, short internodes and leaf orientation parallel or oblique to direct sunlight) and dry vine thickets also provide suitable habitat. Daytime den sites include rocky outcrops, rock piles, caves, tree hollows, hollow logs, termite mounds, goanna burrows, wood piles and in human dwellings including ceilings, wall cavities and even inside couches - Quolls are territorial and solitary
Northern Quolls breed once yearly in late July to late August and produce up to 8 young born at a time that begin dispersing during November/December. The timing of reproduction varies between sites and years; it is semelparous. (Semelparity and iteroparity are two classes of possible reproductive strategies available to living organisms. A species is considered semelparous if it is characterized by a single reproductive episode before death, and iteroparous if it is characterized by multiple reproductive cycles over the course of its lifetime. https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Semelparity_and_iteroparity)
Baby Northern Quoll - Flickr Photo by Parks Australia
The Northern Quoll is known as an opportunistic predator/scavenger on a range of food and therefore a keystone species; meaning a species that has a disproportionately large effect on its natural environment relative to its abundance. Their food includes fleshy fruit eg. figs, native grapes; insects and other invertebrates, amphibians, small reptiles, small birds and rodents and carrion - it is even know them eating biscuits from pet bowls and avocados from fruit bowls.
Unfortunately this food opportunistic behaviour of the Quoll has also become one of the major threats to the lives of individuals and the viability of Quoll populations as a whole. Specifically, predation on the poisonous introduced cane toad is a top driver of mortality. During the last few decades, as cane toads have spread across northern Australia, populations of Northern Quolls have declined in recently invaded cane toad areas.
CSIRO Science Image Cane toads - Wikimedia Commons Cane toads now occur throughout all of the Quoll’s distribution in Queensland/Australia and are spreading westwards across the north of the continent. (Native to South and mainland Middle America, cane toads were introduced to Australia from Hawaii in June 1935 by the Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations, now the Sugar Research Australia, in an attempt to control the native grey-backed cane beetle (Dermolepida albohirtum) and French's beetle (Lepidiota frenchi). https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Cane_toads_in_Australia
Spread of cane toads map (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Sadly the cane toads meanwhile have spread to an uncontrollable pest and are therefore a major threat to wildlife in this country.
Introduced to Australia approximately 90 years ago, cane toads now number more than
200 million !!!
Unfathomable number isn't it...
Another major threat to Northern Quolls is predation by feral cats. The impacts of cats are exacerbated by extensive hot fires and overgrazing from livestock, which reduces ground cover and hence shelter for small mammals. Loss of habitat due to agricultural and urban development threatens localised populations.
Australia has a desperately poor record when it comes to habitat and endangered species protection and supporting their conservation. The Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife Australia remarks:
“Is this the Australia we want to leave to those that come after us? Without a lasting form of protection, habitat can be degraded or destroyed. Australia has lost 75% of its rainforests and nearly 50% of all forests in the last 200 years, and our high rate of species extinction is the result. When habitats aren’t managed for conservation, invasive weeds and feral animals can cause huge problems. Many of our native species are found nowhere else on earth, so if we lose them, the world loses them forever.”
Dasyurus_geoffroii_Gould (Wikimedia Commons)
I couldn’t agree more! How sad if we had only paintings to show to our grandchildren...of what unique and beautiful wildlife Australia once had...
📽 (2.21) Australian Geographic, 2014 - Saving the Northern Quoll from cane toads
At the end of this blog let me quote a statement from the Australian Conservation Foundation giving a clear abstract of the overall environmental situation in Australia today:
“Right now, a pollution and extinction crisis threatens our living world. Climate damage and habitat destruction are our biggest challenges. To solve this we need big, systemic change. That's why we're focusing on four big goals. Together we're working to solve the climate crisis, stand up for nature, redesign our economy and fix our democracy. We’re living with the consequences of bad decisions, discredited ideas and short-term thinking. The big polluters. The rigged rules. The politicians who forget to represent the people.
But we don’t accept the story we must sacrifice nature for a quick buck. People made this crisis and together we can solve it.”
Thanks for reading and following us. You are part of the global movement that cares.
Australian Conservation Foundation,
Australian Wildlife Conservancy (viewed 22.10.2019)
Wildlife Preservation Society of Qld, 2019 (viewed 22.10.2019)