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Australia's last mainland Eastern quoll
Click to enlarge.
In June 2008 Gary Opit and I met in person for the first time. Gary was visiting Sydney following his involvement in the production of a documentary on the yowie being filmed in the Blue Mountains.
During the weeks leading up to Gary's visit he had shared quite a number of stories relating to Sydney's last Eastern quolls. As a teenager he had seen some himself at Lane Cove and his colleague and friend Venour Nathan had described to him many of the habits of the last mainland Eastern quolls living at Nielsen Park, Vaucluse.
Indeed it was Venour who discovered the roadkilled female which was to be brought to the Australian Museum where it would be recorded as the last known mainland Eastern quoll. The species, it seems, had succumbed to extinction on the mainland.
A phone call was made to Dr Sandy Ingleby, the Australian Museum's Collection Manager for the Mammal Section. She graciously granted us permission to visit and examine this specimen first-hand.
We all noticed - and indeed already knew from the earlier phone call - that Venour's name was not recorded as the person making the submission of the specimen. Regardless, Gary recounted further information about where the last Eastern quolls lived and the history of those mainland quolls exhibited for a time at Taronga Zoo.
In addition to viewing this last specimen we also noted other specimens which had been submitted post-1963. A check on the submission notes revealed these were contributed by Taronga Zoo. Research has shown that Tasmanian Eastern quolls are significantly larger than their mainland counterparts, and this was visible in these specimens.
Amongst the mainland stock we saw examples dating back over 100 years. There were black-morph mainland Eastern quolls and one particular example exhibiting a cluster of white spots which had merged together giving it a most striking pattern.
This quoll in particular, led me to the question - would it be possible to selectively breed the species in order to produce an all-white Eastern quoll? Of course, such a specimen wouldn't be an albino Eastern quoll. Albino specimens of other Australian fauna (such as wallbies, kookaburras, koalas, echidnas, etc) have been documented, but up to this time I am not aware of any albino quoll specimens of any species.
Lastly, a taxidermy which had been prepared for display showed how constant exposure to light over many years leads to the fur colouration fading severely.
For privacy reasons I have obscured some of the data on the specimen's tags, however the remainder of the information reads as follows:
"Australian Museum. [specimen number]. DASYURUS QUOLL (struck through) viverrinus. Female (icon).
Nielsen Park, VAUCLUSE, SYDNEY, N.S.W.
31 JAN 1963
[name of person submitting the specimen]"
I would like to express my gratitude to Dr Ingleby for taking the time to show us these specimens, and to the Australian Museum for permission to publish the photograph shown here. As a record of the last mainland Eastern quoll it is a valuable resource to all with an interest in the species' conservation.
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