Professor Adrian Manning from the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society leads the team that has released a new generation of wild eastern quolls from Tasmania, the only area the animals can be found in the wild, into the Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary in Canberra.
The eastern quoll, a small carnivorous marsupial, was once widespread in south-eastern Australia. Its extinction can be attributed to habitat loss, foxes and cats, disease, accidental poisoning and deliberate persecution by humans.
"This is the first translocation of wild eastern quolls directly into a free ranging situation on the Australian mainland," Professor Manning said. "Our aim is not just to establish a healthy and diverse population of eastern quolls but also undertake critical research to understand the best way to introduce the species to improve success in future reintroductions on the mainland."
The quolls are fitted with radio-tracking collars to allow researchers to do regular health checks and monitor their breeding and habitat.
Professor Manning said there is debate in conservation about whether using captive-bred or wild founders is the best for successfully establishing new populations.
"We will test this by comparing the two, having also released six captive-bred eastern quolls from Mount Rothwell in Victoria," he said.
"This is a long-term project. To be at the stage where we release quolls straight into the wild is rewarding for everyone involved because we are not only building on our science, but also leaving a legacy that can have an impact throughout Australia."
The reintroduction of the eastern quoll follows the successful reintroduction of Eastern bettongs in 2012 as part of the Mulligans Flat-Goorooyarroo Woodland Experiment, which is a long-term ecological experiment and research partnership lead by Professor Manning.
The reintroduction is also part of a $1.8 million cash and in-kind Australian Research Council Linkage Project Bringing back biodiversity - a research partnership between the ACT Government, ANU, CSIRO and James Cook University.
The Tasmanian Department of Primary Industry, Parks, Water and the Environment and the Mt Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre are major partners in the translocation project. The Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary is managed in partnership between the ACT Government and the Woodland and Wetland Trus
The mammals can only be found in Tasmania and Professor Manning said the quolls had been a missing part of the ecosystem for many years. "They've been absent from the mainland for about 50 years, and probably in the Canberra region more like 80 or 90 years," he said.
"Habitat loss, foxes and cats, some direct persecution and possibly even disease led to their demise."
"They're a small carnivore and they live on insects and small reptiles and mammals and so forth," Professor Manning said. "Obviously they're important in the ecosystem. "So bringing them back will be a really important part of our project." The reintroduction comes after the earlier release of the eastern bettong in 2012, after a similar mainland extinction around 1900.
Several bird species and the New Holland mouse have also had experimental introductions into the reserve. "We see it as an outdoor laboratory, where we test reintroductions and restoration, and work out the ways to rebuild ecosystems such as the woodlands," Professor Manning said. "That can then be applied elsewhere in Australia
VIEW Footage of the release from the ABC.