Critically endangered marsupial sighted in Australia | Connect Asia

Critically endangered marsupial sighted in Australia

Critically endangered marsupial sighted in Australia

Updated 7 May 2012, 13:58 AEST

In Victoria, a case of forgetting to put the bins out has resulted in the first confirmed sighting of a critically endangered marsupial in over a decade.

The Otway Ranges are a known habitat of the carnivorous marsupial the Tiger Quoll but for the past ten years no one's been able to confirm if it was still alive in the wild.

Correspondent: Anthony Stewart

Speakers: Lizzie Corke, founder of the Conservation Ecology Centre at Cape Otway

ANTHONY STEWART: For the past 10 years environmentalists, tourists and park rangers have been hoping to hear a very distinctive roar in the Otway Ranges in south-west Victoria.

(Sound of Tiger Quoll roar)

LIZZIE CORKE: They are stunning animals, they're gingery-browny colour, covered in beautiful white spots right down their tails and across their bodies, and they have the most divine little pink noses and very strong teeth.

ANTHONY STEWART: Lizzie Corke is the founder of the Conservation Ecology Centre at Cape Otway. She's been trying to establish whether there is a surviving population of Tiger Quolls in the region for the past 18 months.

LIZZIE CORKE: Complete carnivorous, they are our largest remaining carnivorous marsupial on the Australian mainland. So they are very, very special and play a really important role in ecosystem.

ANTHONY STEWART: Is that part of what makes them so vulnerable?

LIZZIE CORKE: It is part of that, because they are top of the food chain, they exist in quite low densities naturally. So when we lose just a couple here and there actually we are making a big impact on the overall population.

ANTHONY STEWART: Ten years ago Tiger Quoll hairs were collected in a trap, but that's the last time scientist were able to confirm they're alive.

Residents across the region have claimed to have spotted the beast since then, but there's been nothing concrete.

LIZZIE CORKE: Unfortunately we haven't been able to confirm any of those reports; we haven't been able to collect any photographic evidence using our remote cameras or anything like that.

ANTHONY STEWART: That is until Matt Morton had late night encounter last month.

MATT MORTON: We heard a thud on the deck and went out to investigate and there was a ginger and white spotted animal that sort of looked like an oversized possum. Then it slowly had walked up a couple of flights of stairs and as it got past the laundry it defecated in front of the laundry door.

ANTHONY STEWART: The event piqued his interest, and after talking with the tourist information office he realised the animal faeces or scats, maybe more valuable than expected.

MATT MORTON: Luckily we picked it up with a doggy bag and then placed it in the bin and we ended up missing the bin collection on Monday morning. So we were very lucky to have the scats still in the bin.

LIZZIE CORKE: We've had so many of these reports of people who think that they've seen one and we haven't been able to back that up with evidence. But their description and the fact that they did have the scat and just looking at the scat, it certainly wasn't a possum scat and yeah, definitely it was a carnivore scat and it was really exciting. But we had to keep that, contain ourselves until we had the official answer.

ANTTIGER QUOLLSHONY STEWART: The scats were sent off for DNA testing and on Friday they were able to confirm that Tiger Quolls are alive in the wilds of the Otway Ranges.

Shayne Neal from the Conservation Ecology Centre says finding more scats may actually hold the key to protecting this elusive species.

SHAYNE NEAL: They actually tend to seek each other's scats out, they poo and wee in piles, in little latrine sites and over that 500 hectare home range. And so the idea is if we can hone in and find those scats, because they don't move they are a little bit easier hopefully to find.

ANTHONY STEWART: The centre is training a team of dogs to hunt for scats and with a confirmed location it's hoped they'll soon hear a wild Tiger Quoll roar.

(Sound of Tiger Quoll roar)

PETER CAVE: Or squeak.

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