Issue 21
Monday, 04 December 2017
Charles Darwin University
The Northern Quoll is suffering severe declines. Photo: Nicolas Rakotopare
The Northern Quoll is suffering severe declines. Photo: Nicolas Rakotopare

Student to share findings from quoll research

By Leanne Miles

A PhD candidate who is working to help save the last stronghold of a nationally threatened species in the Pilbara, Western Australia, will present his latest research findings this week.

Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods student Billy Ross will present preliminary results of his research on how the Northern Quoll responds to a large-scale feral cat baiting program in the Pilbara.

“Prior to Northern Quolls suffering severe declines due to the spread of the cane toad, population declines were noted throughout the drier fringes of their range in Northern Australia,” Billy said.

“The most likely causes of their decline are feral predators such as cats, in combination with the simplification of habitat types due to altered fire regimes and intensive grazing.”

Billy has used camera traps to investigate the detailed physiological, behavioural and demographic responses of the quolls to reduced predator abundance, which has resulted from the baiting program.

“Part of my research is looking at whether the cat management program is allowing quolls to forage more efficiently,” Billy said.

“What we have found over the past year is that in areas where the cat abundance has been reduced, the quolls are moving more freely in their habitat for longer.

“This is great news; not only does the species have access to more resources, but it also could suggest their territories are widening and could have implications for improving genetic diversity.”

Billy will present “Does landscape scale cat management enable Northern Quolls to forage more efficiently? An investigation using ‘Giving Up Densities’ (GUDs)”, at the Australian Wildlife Management Society conference in Katoomba, NSW, on 6 December.

His project is supported by the Threatened Species Recovery Hub, the Western Australia Department of Parks and Wildlife and industry partners Rio Tinto.