Possums and quolls in Ikara-Flinders Ranges

Possums and quolls in Ikara-Flinders Ranges

Rein­tro­duc­ing two local­ly extinct species is help­ing restore the nat­ur­al ecol­o­gy of this out­back paradise.

A five-hour dri­ve from Adelaide’s CBD, north of Port Augus­ta, is the Ikara-Flinders Ranges Nation­al Park.

The park has the largest moun­tain range in South Aus­tralia with tow­er­ing gran­ite peaks, desert land­scapes, ancient gorges, hun­dreds of bird species and now rare native ani­mals includ­ing the west­ern quoll and brush­tail possum.

It has come a long way in recent years.

This semi-arid envi­ron­ment (char­ac­terised by very lit­tle annu­al rain­fall) was tak­en up for pas­toral pro­duc­tion in the mid to late 1800s and the ecosys­tem degrad­ed large­ly due to unsus­tain­able graz­ing pres­sure, weed infes­ta­tion and the per­sis­tence of fox­es, rab­bits, fer­al cats and goats.

Back from the brink

The Bounce­back pro­gram began in the ear­ly 1990s to help restore the nat­ur­al ecol­o­gy of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges. This has includ­ed the rein­tro­duc­tion of local­ly extinct species.

The west­ern quoll was orig­i­nal­ly found across 70 per cent of the Aus­tralian main­land. How­ev­er the last SA spec­i­men was record­ed in 1931.

Euro­pean set­tle­ment in Aus­tralia led to the extinc­tion of the west­ern quoll pop­u­la­tion in SA. The major­i­ty of the endan­gered species now resides in the Jar­rah forests of West­ern Australia.

Possums and quolls in Ikara-Flinders Ranges

Dr Kather­ine Mose­by from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ade­laide, has 20 years’ expe­ri­ence in rein­tro­duc­ing threat­ened species and is coor­di­nat­ing the rein­tro­duc­tion of the quolls to the Ikara-Flinders Ranges.

Dr Mose­by high­light­ed that this is the first time the species has been rein­tro­duced out­side of WA.

In this land­mark rein­tro­duc­tion, west­ern quolls have been breed­ing and young are now dis­pers­ing through the area,’ she said.

Despite the ever-present threat of the fer­al cat, there is now a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of west­ern quoll in the Ikara-Flinders Ranges for the first time in more than 130 years.

They have estab­lished their own ter­ri­to­ries and we hope the quolls may even­tu­al­ly play a role in con­trol­ling rab­bits in the region.’

Pos­sums in the park

Fol­low­ing the suc­cess­ful release of the west­ern quoll, 79 brush­tail pos­sums have also been released into the park in an attempt to halt the decline of pos­sums in arid SA.

Dr Mose­by added that with the major­i­ty of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges mam­mal species local­ly extinct, bring­ing back two species is a great step toward a bet­ter future.

The return of the two species also has impor­tant cul­tur­al sig­nif­i­cance to the local Adnya­math­anha people.

Dr Mose­by will present on the chal­lenges and find­ings of the tri­al rein­tro­duc­tion of the west­ern quoll and brush­tail pos­sum to the Ikara-Flinders Ranges at the 2016 Nat­ur­al Resource Man­age­ment Sci­ence Con­fer­ence being held in Ade­laide 13 to 15 April.

Dr Mose­by is one of the conference’s 285 speak­ers pre­sent­ing on the nat­ur­al resource man­age­ment sci­ence that under­pins envi­ron­men­tal deci­sion-mak­ing, pol­i­cy and man­age­ment in SA.

The 2016 NRM Sci­ence Con­fer­ence will be live streamed. Check the con­fer­ence pro­gram and lis­ten to the pre­sen­ta­tions online.

This con­tent was pro­duced in part­ner­ship with  Good Living