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Northern Quoll

The Northern Quoll, Dasyurus hallucatus, is the smallest of the known Quolls.

Size

The Northern Quoll grows to about 1.2 Kilograms (2.6 pounds) in weight, but is usually much smaller.  It is often described as being about the size of a small Cat.  I would call a 1.2 Kilogram Cat an etremely small Cat.  A typical house Cat is more like 4 Kilograms.

Breeding

The Northern Quoll has six or eight teats.   Although it does not have a fully formed pouch, a flap of skin develops in the area of the teats.

There is a definite breeding season.  In about May each year, the males and the females start mating.  The males will mate with as many females as possible over a two week period and then die.

The females will raise as many young as they can, but are limited to one per teat.  When the babies are too big to cling on underneath they will sometimes ride on their mother’s back.  The mother will put the babies in a hidden nest and go back to feed them regularly.  Like most mammals, the babies do learn things from their mother.

Diet

Northern Quolls are predators, eating a wide range of different animals.  This includes insects, mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.  They will eat carrion as well as catching live animals.

Threats

The population of Northern Quolls has been under pressure for many years.  The animals had been hard hit by introduced animal diseases, deliberate trapping, shooting and poisoning by Humans, and habitat clearance.  As well as poisoning aimed at the Quolls themselves, over a million strychnine base baits were distributed for Dingo control.  These killed other animals including Quolls as well as Dingos.

Then a potential catastrophe occurred.  Cane Toads were introduced and threatened to totally wipe out the Northern Quolls.  A single bite of an adult Cane Toad kills a Quoll.  Since frogs are a natural part of the Quoll diet, they try to eat the Cane Toad, and die.

Critically Endangered

The Northern Quoll is critically endangered in the Northern Territory.  Nationally they are endangered.  When Cane Toads reach an area the Quolls often become locally extinct.  Sometimes this can happen within months.

Hope

Despite the threats to this animal’s existence, there are strong reasons to hope they will survive.

Both the governments and their scientists are taking the threats very seriously.   Here are some of the measures being taken to save the Northern Quoll.

Evacuation

Some Northern Quolls have been evacuated to off shore islands.  This is in addition to ones already on islands.  Considerable care is being taken to prevent Cane Toads reaching the islands.

Captive Breeding

A captive breeding program has been started with care being taken to ensure a wide genetic base, including some Quolls from populations still surviving in Cane Toad areas.

Remnant Populations

In some areas of Queensland where Cane Toads have been in for many years, there are still Northern Quolls.  These are being studied to determine how they are surviving with Cane Toads.

Teaching Quolls

Scientists are attempting to teach populations of Quolls to avoid trying to eat Cane Toads.  Quolls are intelligent animals with a good memory and a good sense of smell.  If they eat a very small Cane Toad they may just get sick.  Then they will tend to avoid Cane Toads.

This might be what has happened in areas where the Quolls are surviving with Cane Toads.  Perhaps the mothers which have learned to avoid Cane Toads then teach their babies.  If so, this method of surviving is cultural.

Scientists are making baits with a small amount of Cane Toad in it.  These smell of Cane Toad.  When a Quoll eats the bait they get sick but usually do not die.  The hope is that these animals will then avoid Cane Toads.  This appears to be working.

We can also hope that these will teach their babies to avoid Cane Toads.

Sources

http://www.wwf.org.au/publications/northern-quoll-fact-sheet/

http://www.nt.gov.au/nreta/wildlife/animals/threatened/pdf/mammals/northern_quoll_cr.pdf

http://www.nt.gov.au/nreta/wildlife/programs/quoll/index.html

http://www.nt.gov.au/nreta/wildlife/programs/quoll/pdf/qld_quolls_finalreport.pdf

http://www.territorywildlifepark.com.au/about/quoll.shtml

http://www.derm.qld.gov.au/wildlife-ecosystems/wildlife/threatened_plants_and_animals/endangered/queenslands_quolls.html

 
Northern Quoll
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