These furry youngsters are fighting against devastating odds.

Key points:

  • Western quolls are listed as a vulnerable mammal species
  • Researchers in SA’s far north are monitoring the progress of those reintroduced outside a protected area
  • Tracking data shows males are surviving in the arid conditions

The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) in Western Australia estimates western quolls once existed “across nearly 70 per cent” of Australia in all states and territories.

“However since European settlement, there has been a major decline and the species now only occupies about 5 per cent of its former range,” a DBCA spokesperson said.

Researchers want to see if western quolls can survive in outback South Australia in competition with feral animals.

The quolls (idnya in local Adnyamathanha language) named Macchiato, Blue’s Clues and Hundreds and Thousands have just been released outside the fenced protected area at Arid Recovery, a nature reserve near Roxby Downs in South Australia.

There are hopes to eventually increase the population of the species, which is classified as vulnerable.

A young male western quoll.(

Supplied: Rebecca Schaefer, Arid Recovery


“We’re really interested to see how they’re going out there, because the fenced area keeps out the feral animals, particularly cats and foxes,” Arid Recovery general manager Katherine Tuft said.

A few of the western quolls released about a year ago are showing promise.

“So far, we’re seeing that there’s some survival, particularly for the males that like to disperse and spread out to find new territories,” Dr Tuft said.

Katherine Tuft is hopeful the population of quolls outside the protected area will rise.(

ABC North and West: Gary-Jon Lysaght


Radio transmitters

The hairy marsupials are fitted with what have been dubbed radio “quoll-ars”.

“We need to fix little transmitters on collars onto these quolls and then we go out with these big TV aerial antennae things and try to listen for little beeps,” Dr Tuft said.

“We have to be on the ground looking for them pretty well all day every day, and sometimes we need to get up into a plane to pick up their signals too.”

The protected area of Arid Recovery covers 123 square kilometres.(

ABC News: Khama Gilchrist


The research team is also preparing to set traps in the protected area to gather more female western quolls to be released and monitored.

“If we follow them through the year, we can see how they go in terms of breeding,” Dr Tuft said.

“At a certain time of year they start to get these little tiny jellybean pouch young in their pouch — they can have up to six in there.

Baiting of cats and foxes in WA helps quolls survive.(

ABC Open contributor Georgina Steytler


Protecting quolls in WA

These conservation efforts add to other programs across Australia.

A DBCA spokesperson said WA had implemented the Western Shield baiting program.

“The WA DBCA is actively reducing the impact of foxes and feral cats on WA’s native animals, including the western quoll,” the spokesperson said.

“Baiting as part of Western Shield mainly occurs in forested areas of the south-west, coastal, arid and semi-arid environments — including in western quoll habitat.

“The program has led to substantial and sustained population increases for many native mammal species.”