Refuge in the rainforest

Monday 21 December, 2015
Northern Quoll. Photo Jiri Lochman / Lochman Transparencies.Northern Quoll. Photo Jiri Lochman / Lochman Transparencies.

In a remote rainforest on the Bougainville Peninsula in Western Australia, scientists found something astonishing.

For six months they'd been recording animals using a series of camera traps. The images that popped up on their computer screens showed an array of precious wildlife. There were short-eared rock wallabies, northern brown bandicoots, golden-backed tree rats and echidnas, as well as rainbow pittas, emerald doves and orange-footed scrub fowl.

But it was a tiny creature with pointy snout, reddish brown fur, cream underside and white spotty back that really caught everyone’s attention.

That’s because the Northern quoll, a nationally endangered species, had never before been recorded this far east in the rainforests, or wulo, of Wunambal Gaambera Country.

Wunambal Gaambera coast.Wunambal Gaambera coast. Photo by Lyndall McLean

For years this species has been in rapid decline, partly because of the degradation and fragmentation of its habitat, feral animals, wildfires, and the spread of poisonous cane toads that are lethal when ingested.

So to find another population is exciting and demonstrates the good news coming from Bush Heritage’s partnership with the Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation (WGAC).

A Federal Government biodiversity grant enabled the WGAC to fund University of Tasmania research. WGAC chair Catherine Goonack said the research was the first major ecological study of the area since the 1980s, when government trapping surveys identified just two mammal species in the wulo.

“We're very pleased that our Uunguu Rangers have had the opportunity to learn more about and protect this important intact refuge for Kimberley species,” she says.

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