Image: © Rick Stevens/ Taronga Western Plains Zoo

Threatened Chuditch Numbers Double at Taronga Western Plains Zoo

Author

The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Published

April 12, 2023 10:35 pm

Location

Taronga Western Plains Zoo, New South Wales, Australia

The population of the endangered chuditch in the Taronga Sanctuary received a much needed boost this week with 10 translocated individuals helping to double the population ahead of the upcoming breeding season.

The ten individuals, four males and six females, travelled from other sanctuaries in Southern and Western Australia to join the breeding program. They were selected from the healthy populations in Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park in South Australia and healthy populations in southwest Western Australia by specialist conservation officers and keepers at Taronga.

Also known as the western quoll the chuditch once occurred across 70% of Australia but is now found in just 5%. In New South Wales the species has been declared extinct.

“Chuditch are one of the top 20 priority mammals listed under the Federal Species Strategy, and this year we will double our breeding capacity at the Taronga Sanctuary in Dubbo as we strive to improve the plight of this endangered carnivorous marsupial,” said Taronga Wildlife Conservation Officer Rachael Schildkraut.

“We had such an amazing year last year. We’re aiming to successfully breed eight pairs but in order to do that we needed to translocate new founders and introduce fresh genetics to ensure genetically robust individuals for release to the wild.”

Taronga Western Plains Zoo began work to restore the species to New South Wales in 2022 assisted by a significant donation from the Kinghorn Foundation. Just one year on and the program has seen 17 offspring born to 4 breeding pairs with 15 of these going on to be released in South Australia’s Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park.

“South Australia and our project partner, the Foundation for Australia’s Most Endangered Species (FAME), are grateful for the opportunity to further the recovery of Chuditch beyond our borders,” Bounceback Program manager Rob Brandle said. “The successful reintroduction program in South Australia, without the use of fences, has only been possible through the 11-year partnership with FAME Inc. and demonstrates the importance of public-private partnerships in delivering high impact conservation projects.


“The amazing response of the Flinders Ranges population to consecutive La Niña seasons enabled us to provide Taronga with the five animals they needed as well as translocating an extra 25 animals to our new population at Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park in the northern Flinders.”

After arriving in Dubbo the chuditch were given a visual health inspection before release in to the specialised breeding pens of the Taronga Sanctuary. In the coming weeks they will receive another health check and monitoring will continue through until the breeding season commences in May.

“These new individuals are showing positive behaviours and settling into their new habitat here in Dubbo,” Chuditch Keeper Morrigan Guinane said.

“As we’re able to provide ideal breeding conditions, we can increase their numbers at a faster rate than would occur in the wild. “This allows us to return a high number of genetically robust individuals back to the wild in areas where they used to roam far and wide but are no longer found.

Chuditch are one of the four quoll species found in Australia. They continue to be threatened through predation by cats and foxes, both introduced carnivores in Australia.

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Tiger Quoll (Dasyurus maculatus)

More on the Quoll!

The chuditch has a much larger cousin known as the tiger quoll, find out what makes them special in our fact file.

Our Favourite Chuditch Fact!

The chuditch is a marsupial meaning they raise their young in a pouch on their belly. This species will produce young slightly larger than a grain of rice with no fur which crawl to a pouch just minutes after birth and then attach to a teat from which they can drink milk.

Image: © Rick Stevens/ Taronga Western Plains Zoo

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