Eastern quoll sighted!
I was alerted by an online blog called FreekBoi's Creature Features that a pair of animals matching the description of the Eastern quoll, was sighted in the Hawkesbury area north of Sydney last month.
As the full news article goes on to say, Eastern quolls were last sighted in the inner city Sydney suburb of Vaucluse in 1963.
When I learned of this (and being a Sydney resident) I took a deep interest in their story. I visited the location at the beautiful Nielsen Park. The Park has only a few roads, some rocky sandstone outcrops and tracts of bushland atop the two hills. In the valley lies the current National Parks and Wildlife Service headquarters, overlooking the bay which is shark-netted. The beach has a kiosk and there are always plenty of families picnicing in the park.
Then, a few years later, whilst in Tasmania, I took an early morning drive south out of Hobart. I found myself in circumnavigating a beautiful peninsula before sunrise, named Tinderbox Hills when this tiny creature came bounding out onto the roadway. I came to an abrupt halt and jumped out to track this fellow down, but he was off - not hanging around.
Sure enough, it was an Eastern quoll who came out to say hello. Talking to Parks rangers at the time I found out that Tinderbox Hills was well within the expected Tasmanian range for the species.
Coming back to the mainland I started tracking down anyone and everyone I could think of who might have information relating to mainland Eastern quolls. My search brought me in communication with an author who had reason to believe they still existed around the Gosford-to-Nelson Bay area along the coast - to the east of this present Hawkesbury sighting.
Following this I'd heard reports that the quoll may have been sighted "in the New England area" - which is an enourmous part of New South Wales.
In planning a trek along the eastern seaboard for early next year, the Eastern quoll was high on my list of animals to keep an eye out for - and thankfully, someone has beaten me to the punch! :)
I'll be keeping eyes wide as ever - perhaps even more so now, especially in now knowing the general area they've been sighted - and so close to home!
In the meantime, what great news! I will certainly keep an eye on the media for it too!
I can't conclude this article without also raising questions of the mainland Tasmanian devil and the thylacine. Certainly the Eastern quoll is much smaller, but it's still a cat-sized animal, which is not trivial. The Tasmanian devil, whilst bulkier, is not enormously larger and yet, five specimens have been collected from Victoria between 1910 and 1991 - the last two being roadkill 3 days and 150 kilometers apart.
It seems these are exciting days for Australian fauna (re)discoveries! And it can be heart wrenching to think of how our environment has been so totally degraded in large part.
Yesterday I attended the Australia versus Great Britain tri-nations rugby league match in Sydney, and was met with our National Anthem, which, in part, reads:
"Our land abounds in nature's gifts
Of beauty rich and rare,
In history's page let every stage
Advance Australia fair"
How soon our political leaders have forgotten the bounty of nature's gifts in these lands, both rich, and rare. Before we're too quick to harken that line, "Advance Australia fair", let's ask ourselves - have we been fair to the rare and rich gifts of nature that are ours to care for?
This is why a part of the vision of Where Light Meets Dark is to encourage local action for conservation. Think globally, act locally. Every bit counts. Won't you help too?
17/11/06: The National Parks and Wildlife Service Threatened Species Information sheet for the Eastern quoll (produced in 1999) lists numerous post 1963 sightings, but with the following disclaimer:
"The sightings represented on this map are only indicative. They cannot be considered as a comprehensive inventory and may contain errors and omissions."