First live quoll found in WA’s largest national park in 50 years

By Shannon Verhagen | September 15, 2016

It’s the first sighting from traditional owners since the 1960s and the first European record of the species in the area.

FOR THE FIRST time in over 50 years, a northern quoll has been captured in Karlamilyi – Western Australia’s largest and most remote national park.

The historic find comes after a joint survey effort between Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa (KJ) Punmu and Parnngurr ranger teams and Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPAW) scientists earlier this month.

Located in the Pilbara, in the heart of Martu country, the park was once home to quolls – called wiminyji by the traditional owners – however they had not been seen since traditional life was disrupted around 50 years ago.

quolls

Northern quolls (Dasyurus hallucatus), or wiminyji, have not been seen in Karlamilyi National Park, WA, for over 50 years. (Image: Judy Dunlop/DPAW)

“They recall seeing wiminyji throughout the Karlamilyi region when they were living a traditional life in the area, which was as recent as the early 1960s,” said Gareth Catt, fire management officer for KJ.

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It is their second attempt at trapping the animals – which are genetically different to the populations found throughout WA’s north west – after remote cameras stationed in the park captured footage of the endangered Dasyurid in 2012.

quolls

Judy Dunlop holding the quoll with Jeremy Lane, Ashwin Biljabu and Neil Lane. (Image: Gareth Catt/KJ)

“I’ve just been trying to follow up on that record and this year we finally got one in the hand. It was fabulous,” said Dr Judy Dunlop – a DPAW research scientist. 

“I had the privilege of being out there with the Martu elders – they were just so knowledgable,” Judy added. “They remember them from little kids, but not since the ‘60s, so it’s really interesting that we’ve turned them up again after all this time.”

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Not only is it the first quoll found in the area in the past 50 years, but it was also captured 200km outside of its known range – providing further insight into the species’ habitats.

“It makes us think a little bit more broadly in where they might be and it means our definition of quoll habitat is perhaps a little bit too narrow,” Judy said. “There may be some out in other areas.”

Gareth said that going forward, the strong knowledge of the Martu elders and rangers will inform how KJ works with DPAW in gathering information and managing country into the future.

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