Western quolls' strong comeback in South Australia's Flinders Ranges after a century

Western quolls were monitored for progress after their first release in the Flinders Ranges in 2014.
Image courtesy Foundation for Australia’s Most Endangered Species

Western quolls, a creature previously not seen in South Australia for more than 100 years, made a confirmed comeback in the northern Ikara/Flinders Ranges in 2019.

Forty wild western quolls (Dasyurus geoffroii) from Western Australia were introduced (along with brush-tail possums) to Wilpena Pound in the Ikara/Flinders Ranges National Park in 2015, following the trial release of 38 quolls in the previous year.

The western quoll, also known as the chuditch, is one of Australia’s native predators, about the size of a small domestic cat. It was originally in every Australian state and territory but had become restricted to south-west Western Australia.

The Ikara/Flinders project aimed to restore the species to part of its original range and see if it could, as a carnivore at the top of the food chain, rebalance the local ecosystem in favour of native species. The hope was that western quolls would continue breeding in the wild but also prey on rabbits, giving the bush the chance to recover from feral grazing. The project was another practical study in how best to tackle feral cats, through trapping, baiting and other controls. Fox controls were also tried.

Unusually dry summers and harsh outback conditions after the 2014 release raised doubts that the quolls would breed. But a monitoring by the state environment and water department instead found the quoll and possum population had surged.

The federal and state government environment departments were partners in the quoll project, along with Foundation for Australia’s Most Endangered Species, and Western Australian parks and wildlife department.

The quolls had not been in South Australia for more than a century after they were labelled a pest because they killed farmers’ animals.

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