The population of an important Western Australian chuditch stronghold, located in the Julimar state forest, has rebounded strongly over the last few years, due to the effectiveness of the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) Western Shield program.
A nocturnal animal that feeds on a diet of large invertebrates, reptiles, birds and mammals, the Chuditch or Western Quoll is a solitary marsupial about the size of a domestic cat that is WA’s largest native carnivore.
According to DBCA Fauna Conservation officer and coordinator for the Perth Hills district of the Western Shield program Rebecca Kay, the program is the department’s primary fauna recovery project and involves both the monitoring of native animals and baiting of foxes and feral cats.
“The recovery of the chuditch population here has been such a success that it now boasts the highest density of the species per area in WA,” she said.
“A total of 36 chuditch were trapped, measured, given a health check and microchipped during the latest round of monitoring.
“The chuditch population there is now healthy enough that over the past two years we have been using it to attempt to re-establish populations in other areas.
“Over the last two years we have caught 37 chuditch that have now been relocated to South Australia’s Flinders Range in an attempt to re-establish the species there.
“It’s a remarkable comeback considering they had previously been deemed locally extinct in the Julimar state forest area.”
According to Miss Kay the marsupial was relocated back to the Julimar state forest region in 1992 with this precinct now forming part of a network of recovery sites spanning 3.8 million hectares across WA which are protected by the Western Shield.
She said using a natural poison in baits to target feral cats and foxes was paying dividends for the program.
“The Western Shield program is the one of the largest wildlife conservation programs ever attempted in Australia.
“Without the protection provided by the baiting of fox and feral cats these endangered native species could have become extinct or only survived in small protected pockets.
“Our baiting program uses sodium fluoroacetate, a toxin that occurs naturally in pea plants from the Gastrolobium genus which allows us to use this natural substance to advantage.
“These native animal species have developed a natural tolerance to the poison as they have evolved within the same environment.
“Even minute amounts of it is lethal to both feral and domestic animals.
“The baiting program is carefully planned and implemented to ensure that feral cats are more likely to consume the baits, for instance in arid areas baits are put down when prey is more likely to be scarce but we are still developing the best methods for targeting feral cats in the forested regions.”
By Andrew Carter