... So that You may be kept informed

NT: Quolls fight back from brink of extinction on NT islands

By Tara Ravens
16 Dec 2008 2:36 PM

DARWIN, Dec 16 AAP - Hiding out on islands off Arnhem Land are a group of endangered quolls.

Far from the poisonous cane toads that brought them to the edge of extinction, the carnivorous marsupials with a taste for frogs have been busy breeding.

The surprising comeback of the northern quoll is part of a landmark experiment that could ensure the survival of the species.

Sixty-five northern quolls from Kakadu and rural Darwin were translocated to the uninhabited Astell and Pobassoo Islands in 2003.

Since then, there have only been a handful of sightings on the mainland due to the increasing impact of toads, which have ravaged the world heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, killing everything and anything that eats them as they move north to Darwin.

Rangers and NT scientists recently went back to the islands for the annual count, spending 12 days capturing and marking the animals.

Preliminary population estimates show more than 2,500 healthy adult females on Astell Island and more than 450 adult females on Pobassoo Island.

"This is remarkable considering just 65 northern quolls were translocated in 2003," said Department of Natural Resources, Environment, The Arts and Sport (NRETAS) scientist Tony Griffiths.

More importantly, Mr Griffiths said the quolls had not had an adverse impact on other inhabitants of the islands, putting to bed fears the venture was "risky" and could upset the local ecosystem.

"Other fauna, including skinks, on both islands are healthy despite the large numbers of quolls now residing there," he said.

"(This) project has proven to be successful in safeguarding the northern quoll in the Northern Territory and the translocated quolls act as a living gene bank for this charismatic species."

Millions of crocodiles, goannas, snakes, birds, dingoes and other native creatures are believed to have died after eating the poisonous cane toad, since its arrival in Australia in the 1930s.

The warty reptiles have spread from Queensland, where they were originally introduced to kill pests in the cane fields, to northern NSW and across into the Northern Territory.