THE remote digital camera was set up to film brush-tailed rock wallabies. But the creature that crept across the screen in the dusky cave light had a long tail — and spots.
The footage caused Grampians National Park ranger in charge Dave Roberts to do a double, then triple take.
His first impression was right. The animal that deftly navigated the narrow passage of the 15-metre-deep cave was indeed a tiger quoll: an endangered animal not seen in the Grampians area for more than 140 years.
“This was completely unexpected,’’ he said. “In 18 months of monitoring, we’ve never come across anything that even looked like a native carnivore.’’
The last confirmed sighting of a tiger quoll in the Grampians was in 1872, a time when the creature was considered by pastoralists to be a pest.
The unexpected find fuels hope that where there is one quoll, there will be more. More importantly, the tiger quoll’s appearance in an area of national park severely burnt in 2006 suggests that the species is able to recolonise habitat after the impact of fire.
Mr Roberts said the tiger quoll captured on film last week appeared to be a healthy adult weighing about five kilograms.
Listed as endangered in Victoria, the tiger quoll is the mainland’s equivalent to the Tasmanian devil, a top predator that keeps the ecosystem in check.
Until the tiger quoll find, it was thought all native carnivores in the Grampians ecosystem had been lost. In their place are introduced foxes and cats.
- THE AGE