Citizen scientists will use a novel mobile phone application as part of an initiative of the Wildlife Biodiversity Co-operative Research Centre Bid, a consortium of 40 institutions led by the University of Newcastle, to help reintroduce lost predators in Australia.

“Re-establishing lost carnivores has been undertaken in several regions internationally, for example the return of wolves to parts of North America. These projects have had dramatic benefits to local biodiversity” said Bid Director, Professor John Rodger.

The project will manage the reintroduction of Tasmanian Devils, Spotted-tailed Quolls and Eastern Quolls to Wilsons Promontory in Victoria, a 50,000 ha protected area, over a three year period. To optimise reintroduction success, rapid next generation genomics technology will be developed to screen for genetic markers so that animals can be selected for a range of desirable traits.

“Wilsons Promontory is geographically isolated and has a long history of ecological research and environmental management, which makes it an ideal study site,” said Professor Rodger.

Changes in feral animal populations will be monitored to establish the effectiveness of the Devil and Quoll species as biological controls.

“Changes in fox, cat and rabbit numbers across the trial sites will be compared with a control area to quantify the direct and indirect effects of devils on these feral species. The study will also investigate changes in the prevalence of toxoplasmosis, a disease spread via cats and neospora, a disease spread by foxes, both of which harm our native wildlife,” said Professor Rodger.

“Continuing to deal with feral animals, declining native species populations, wildlife disease and habitat degradation separately is expensive and ineffective. This project will trial the use of a single innovative solution to address a large number of biodiversity threats.”

In the Media:
The Australian – Devil of a job for wildlife tracking app

*photography by Menna Jone