Sir David Attenborough has recently named Australia’s Northern Quoll as one of the endangered species he would take on his Ark– perhaps this is the wake-up call that a lot of us need to recognise the importance of our unique wildlife.
Northern Quolls are the smallest of the four quoll species found in Australia. They also spend more time in trees than other quolls, and some say they’re the most aggressive. They are now missing from large parts of their original range, mostly due to the spread of the cane toad, which is toxic to quolls.
Over my years at Taronga Zoo I’ve felt privileged to work with these amazing little marsupials. I’ve found that Northern Quolls are equally curious and cautious – and far from aggressive. If you can gain their trust, they will freely approach you and investigate what you’re doing.
One male we had in the past would often wait at the door and jump on you to try and get his food quickly. With his sharp little claws designed for climbing trees and hunting, this wasn’t always the most comfortable experience!
The exhibit really came alive when we had a litter of seven quoll joeys running around our nocturnal exhibit, Australia’s Nightlife. They would race across the floor, up and down trees, always in a rush and a nightmare to keep track of!
When getting photos for a news story, one of the quolls surprised me by sitting quietly in my lap, posing for the camera completely at ease. He’d just gained my trust before he suddenly leapt up and began to race around the room again. Even though he was already equipped with a set of needle-sharp teeth, he didn’t try to bite when recaptured and instead calmly posed for a few more pictures before going back on display.
Unfortunately, few of us know much about the remarkable creatures that scurry around our country. I hope that more people might start to appreciate our native wildlife before it’s too late. There’s so much out there and we can all do our part in making sure our fascinating animals are around for many years to come.
Australian Mammal Keeper, Robert