Saturday 12 December 2015


The Northern Quoll (Dasyuris hallucatus) , a carnivorous marsupial, is the smallest of the four Australian quoll species.  It is listed as endangered under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity (EPBC) Act.  In the Northern Territory it was listed as critically endangered in 2012.

 Photo: Australian Wildlife Conservancy

Northern Quolls, once very common in the northern part of the Northern Territory, became critically endangered as feral cane toads[1] spread across the north. Twelve years ago quolls from the Darwin and Kakadu areas were collected and relocated to two cane-toad free islands with suitable habitat off north-east Arnhem Land.  They have flourished there and now number in the thousands.

Some of these quolls are now to be returned to the mainland where they will be trained to leave cane toads alone. Initially they will be re-housed in the Territory Wildlife Park where they will be fed on cane toad sausages.  This food, which will smell like cane toad, will make the quolls ill.  The scientists conducting this conditioned taste aversion program expect that the quolls will learn to reject the toads as a food source. After the training they will be released in the Mary River district of Kakadu National Park which contains suitable quoll habitat.

The animals which are released will be closely monitored so that the success of the program can be gauged.

An earlier trial of this taste aversion in Kakadu led to the survival of some quolls and the passing on of the cane toad aversion to baby quolls – which gives the scientists hope that quolls can be successfully reintroduced to areas where cane toads are living.

There are also plans to use the cane toad sausages with wild quolls in the Kimberley area in the hope this will lead to their survival in spite of the toad invasion.

[1] Cane toads (Bufo marinus), natives of Central and South America, were introduced to Queensland in 1935 in the mistaken belief that they would control pest beetle in sugar crops.  Since then they have moved south along the east coast with established populations as far south as the Clarence Valley (Yamba and Brooms Head) in NSW and west across the Queensland savanna into the Northern Territory and across into northern Western Australia. They have had a devastating impact on native wildlife which has eaten them  (e.g. goannas and quolls)