New arrivals to double breeding program for endangered quoll at Taronga Western Plains Zoo
The quest to protect the endangered chuditch has reached a new milestone, with 10 individuals successfully translocated from Southern and Western Australia to Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo to expand a critical conservation breeding program.
Also known as idnya or western quoll, the chuditch was once found across 70% of mainland Australia but has been reduced to just 5% of its former range and is extinct in the wild in NSW.
Taronga Conservation Society Australia’s conservation breeding program to restore the chuditch to its former range commenced in 2022 in Dubbo, thanks to a generous philanthropic donation from the Kinghorn Foundation. Within the first year of the program, 17 offspring were born from just four breeding pairs, and 15 individuals were released into the wild at South Australia’s Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park.
“Chuditch are one of the top 20 priority mammals listed under the Federal Species Strategy, and this year we will double our breeding capacity at the Taronga Sanctuary in Dubbo as we strive to improve the plight of this endangered carnivorous marsupial,” said Taronga Wildlife Conservation Officer Rachael Schildkraut.
“We had such an amazing year last year. We’re aiming to successfully breed eight pairs but in order to do that we needed to translocate new founders and introduce fresh genetics to ensure genetically robust individuals for release to the wild.”
Working in collaboration with the Western Australian Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA), and the South Australian Department for Environment and Water (DEW), Taronga Conservation Officers and Specialist Keepers recently selected four males and six females to join the conservation breeding program from Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park in SA and healthy populations in southwest WA.
Five animals were flown directly from South Australia to Dubbo airport, while the remaining five were driven from Sydney to Dubbo after a red-eye flight from the west coast.
“SA and our project partner, the Foundation for Australia’s Most Endangered Species (FAME), are grateful for the opportunity to further the recovery of Chuditch beyond our borders,” Bounceback Program manager Rob Brandle said.
“The successful reintroduction program in South Australia, without the use of fences, has only been possible through the 11-year partnership with FAME Inc. and demonstrates the importance of public-private partnerships in delivering high impact conservation projects.
“The amazing response of the Flinders Ranges population to consecutive La Niña seasons enabled us to provide Taronga with the five animals they needed as well as translocating an extra 25 animals to our new population at Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park in the northern Flinders.”
After a visual vet check on arrival, the chuditch have been released into specialised breeding enclosures within the Taronga Sanctuary in Dubbo. They will undergo a full health check in the coming weeks and then continue to be monitored remotely in the lead up to the breeding season, which commences in May, with birthing expected between May-September.
“These new individuals are showing positive behaviours and settling into their new habitat here in Dubbo,” Chuditch Keeper Morrigan Guinane said.
“As we’re able to provide ideal breeding conditions, we can increase their numbers at a faster rate than would occur in the wild.
“This allows us to return a high number of genetically robust individuals back to the wild in areas where they used to roam far and wide but are no longer found.
“It’s a real honour and a privilege to be involved and be making a really meaningful contribution towards the conservation of this special native species.”
“Predation by feral cats and foxes continue to pose a significant threat to the survival of many WA native species including the Chuditch,” added Western Shield ecologist Dr Michelle Drew, from the WA DBCA.
“DBCA’s wildlife recovery program Western Shield, now in its 27th year, continues to recover native animals in the wild through fox and feral cat baiting across more than 3.8 million hectares of State forest and reintroduce native animals to areas where they once existed.
“Western Shield is proud to collaborate with Taronga Western Plains Zoo on this interstate translocation to ensure the chuditch has the best possible chance to establish new populations and thrive for generations to come.”
Chuditch are large, high order carnivorous marsupials, one of four species of quoll in Australia and related to the Tasmanian Devil. They have a relatively short life span of only three to four years and are generally solitary outside of the breeding season. Chuditch have a short gestation of only 17-18 days and are supernumerary breeders, producing up to 50 foetuses, of which up to six can survive.
The chuditch breeding facility is located within the 110ha Taronga Sanctuary at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo. Taronga is extremely grateful to The Kinghorn Foundation for making this species-saving conservation breeding program possible.
For more information visit www.taronga.org.au/dubbo