Parks Victoria Ranger Discovers Evidence of a Tiger Quoll in the Great Otway National Park
Local Parks Victoria Ranger, Nick Alexeyeff, collected a scat in the National Park, not far from the CEC property. He handed it in to us for DNA testing by cesar and it has been confirmed as Tiger Quoll – making it the second confirmed piece of evidence of quolls in the region in a month! After nearly a decade it is wonderful to know that there are a few quolls still hanging on in the wilds of the Otways. It makes our conservation work even more vital. The DNA from this scat will be compared with the first to gain some preliminary insights into the genetic diversity of the population.
This is the Media Release from Parks Victoria. Issued 28th May 2012
Parks Victoria has received confirmation that a scat (that’s poo to most of us) found by Ranger Nick Alexeyeff in the Great Otway National Park is that of the rare Spot-tailed Quoll (Dasyurus maculatus), also known as a Tiger Quoll.
It is another piece of evidence that Spot-tailed Quolls are still living in the park.
Nick Alexeyeff collected the scat in the Cape Otway area. “I was walking through quite thick bush in the park with some contractors looking at options for a realignment of the Great Ocean Walk.
“There was a big fallen tree in our path covered in moss, and a scat right on top. I took a closer look and noticed fine filaments of fur which told me it came from a predator and could be a quoll.
“It was almost as if this big tree was like a highway running through the scrub and a regular track taken by the animal,” said Nick.
“I emptied my lunch box, popped in the scat and took it to the Conservation Ecology Centre who arranged to have it DNA tested, and we have now received confirmation it is a quoll.”
The scat was confirmed as that of a Spot-tailed (Tiger) Quoll after a rigorous DNA analysis by Dr Andrew Weeks at cesar, a research centre specialising in genetic analysis for wildlife conservation in Melbourne.
“Scats contain DNA from the source animal, so we can determine the species which left the scat using species specific DNA markers,” Dr Weeks explained. Cesar will now undertake further testing to better understand the origins of the animal.
The Quoll is a predator at the top end of the food chain. It is the largest carnivorous marsupial remaining on mainland Australia, so is not found in high numbers, but this evidence is the first in 13 years that quolls are active in the park.
The Conservation Ecology Centre’s CEO, Lizzie Corke, explains that these animals are already endangered, and although the Otways has traditionally been a stronghold for the species, there has been a dramatic decline in numbers.
“Introduced predators such as foxes and cats have combined with habitat destruction and fragmentation of populations such that the species is now critically in danger of extinction in this region.”
Jack Dinkgreve, Parks Victoria Ranger in Charge for the East Otways added that the scat was found in an area where a
fox control program has been operating for several years.
“We have been working on fox control continuously for three or four years now and we believe that may well have made a difference. Removing foxes and other pests like wild cats give animals like the quoll a much better chance of surviving and thriving,” he said.
Because of their large home ranges and their position at the top of the food chain, efforts made to conserve the Tiger Quoll benefit a wide range of other species which depend on the habitats of the Otways.
To understand more about the Tiger Quoll, Parks Victoria, the Department of Sustainability and Environment, and the Conservation Ecology Centre (CEC) are surveying for them using established techniques such as remote sensor cameras. The CEC is also developing a team of detection dogs, trained to search out Tiger Quoll scats.
“This discovery has created a fair amount of excitement in our office, it means that the park is doing its job, protecting our native wildlife for the future,” Jack Dinkgreve added.
Listen to the interview on ABC Radio National.
Holidaymakers in the Otways have unknowingly collected the first evidence of endangered Tiger Quolls in the Otways for almost a decade. The scat has just been confirmed as that of a Tiger Quoll through DNA analysis by Dr Andrew Weeks at cesar, a research centre specialising in genetic analysis for wildlife conservation in Melbourne.
Tiger Quolls are the largest marsupial carnivores remaining on the Australian mainland, and, as an apex predator, living at the top of the food chain, the species plays an important role in the ecosystem.
Already endangered, Tiger Quoll populations are declining across their entire range. Although the Otways has traditionally been a stronghold for the species, introduced predators such as foxes and cats have
combined with habitat destruction and fragmentation of populations resulting in dramatic declines over the last several decades and the species is now critically in danger of extinction in this region.
The great news unfolded recently when holidaymakers went to check a heavy thump on their back deck, and found a ‘spotted, ginger’ animal ‘a bit like a big possum’. The animal, which reminded the observers of a Tassie Devil, nonchalantly wandered across the deck, then stopped to drop a scat before jumping off.
Luckily the holidaymakers had the foresight to collect the scat and popped into the local Visitor Information Centre to ask about what they might have seen. The staff there gave them the contact details for the Conservation Ecology Centre (CEC) at Cape Otway.
With the support of their Patron, the Hon. Steve Bracks AC, the CEC is working to conserve Tiger Quolls across the Otways, working with government land management agencies and private landholders.
The Centre’s Co-Founder and CEO, Lizzie Corke, explains why these animals are a top priority for the Centre:
“Healthy and robust ecosystems are vital for the survival of us all and every species lost further jeopardises the ability of these ecosystems to bounce back. Because of their large home ranges and their position at the top of the food chain, efforts made to conserve the Tiger Quoll benefit a wide range of other species which depend on the habitats of the Otways. So much has been lost already that we need to make an urgent and concerted effort to care for what we have left.”
Acting Senior Biodiversity Officer at The Department of Sustainability and Environment, Saul Vermeeren, discusses the Otways quoll population:
“We don’t know how many quolls we still have living in the wilds of the Otways, or if they still constitute a genetically viable population. The confirmation that Quolls still exist in the region gives us the power to make informed planning
decisions on the management of public land. Hopefully by undertaking more intensive surveys and considering appropriate land management practices we will be able to generate positive outcomes for the species that will allow it to flourish in the wild.”
To understand more about the Tiger Quoll, DSE, Parks Victoria and the Conservation Ecology Centre are surveying for them using established techniques such as remote sensor cameras. The CEC is also developing a team of detection dogs, trained to search out Tiger Quoll scats. Tiger Quoll scats are then confirmed through DNA analyses.
“Scats contain DNA from the source animal, and we can therefore determine the species which left the scat using species specific DNA markers” Dr Andrew Weeks explains.
A key threat to Tiger Quolls is invasive predators, particularly foxes, and efforts to decrease fox numbers are vital for ensuring the future of Tiger Quolls in the Otways.
If you have seen a Tiger Quoll or are interested in getting involved with the program as a volunteer contact us.