'Extinct' marsupial may be alive, well, and local
1/11/2006 2:13:10 PM
A HAWKESBURY resident may have stumbled upon one of the most exciting zoological finds of the decade – a small marsupial previously thought to be extinct on Australia's mainland.
East Kurrajong resident and Gazette employee Nicole Palmer was driving along Roberts Creek Road when she spotted a couple of unusual-looking animals last Wednesday night about 7.30pm.
"There was two of them. One was smaller. I pulled up and the larger one kept hopping towards the car," she said.
"They were both dark brown with white spots around its jowl and neck area, 3-4 inches of the tip of its tail was white and it didn't look like a tiger quoll, it was much smaller and less heavy."
From her description, NPWS ranger Vickii Lett and University of Western Sydney biologist Professor Rob Close believe Ms Palmer may have spotted two eastern quolls.
Eastern quolls are about the size of domestic cats with pointed noses and soft fawn, brown or black-coloured fur broken up by white spots, and a bushy, white-tipped tail.
They are much smaller than their cousins, the endangered Spotted-tail or 'Tiger' quoll, which has a coarse, reddy-brown coat with white spots and is half as big again as the eastern quoll.
The eastern quoll was last seen on the mainland in the 1960s in the Sydney suburb of Vaucluse.
Since that time dogs, cats, foxes and people have encroached on the small marsupial's habitat to the extent that they are now believed to be extinct on the mainland.
However, eastern quolls remain prolific in Tasmania, preferring to live in dry grassland and forest bordering farm paddocks.
Ms Lett said National Parks would be acting on the sighting of the protected species.
"In the meantime, we'd like residents to keep an eye out and if they see something unusual, take a picture of it with their camera or mobile phone," she said.
"We'd also like people in the area to be careful about letting their dogs and cats roam around."
Dr Close, who recently urged residents to keep an eye out for signs of rare wildlife, said he was thrilled about the sighting.
"If it is in fact a true sighting, it's very exciting," Dr Close said.
"There's been a few sightings over the past few years, unverified, so it raises hopes that they are still around."