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Quolls
The quolls are a group of small carnivorous Marsupials from Australia, New Guinea and some of the surrounding islands.  They were recorded and collected by Captain James Cook in 1770; he recorded the native peoples’ name of ‘Quoll’ used for these animals.
 
Native Cats
The early European settlers gave them several different and misleading names based on animals they were more familiar with.  Some of these names were Native Cat, Spotted Marten and Native Polecat.
The Spotted-tailed Quoll is the largest of the group while the Northern Quoll is the smallest.  The Eastern Quoll is between these two extremes.
 
The Eastern Quoll
 
The Eastern Quoll, Dasyurus viverrinus, is sometimes described as being about the size of a small domestic Cat, Felis catus, but since even the male Eastern Quolls only grow to about 1.3 Kilograms (3 pounds), I would make that a very small domestic Cat.
 
Range
The Eastern Quoll used to range over much of the Eastern coastal region of Australia, but is now believed to be extinct on the mainland.  The population in Tasmania is still thriving.
 
Diet and Niche
The Eastern Quoll has similar dietary preferences to the Spotted-tailed Quoll, but its smaller size means it effectively occupies a different ecological niche.  These two species live in the same areas.
The Eastern Quoll is a powerful hunter for its size, eating not only Mice, but also hunting and killing Rats, but its main food is insects.
 
Farmer’s Friend
Most of the creatures this animal eats are agricultural pests like pasture cockchafers and many other types of insects.  They also eat carrion and help to clean up any dead animals which would be breeding grounds for the dreaded Blowfly which attacks sheep.
 
Predators
The Eastern Quoll is probably extinct on the mainland.  Its small size makes it vulnerable to Foxes and Cats. Dogs, including Dingos will also eat this animal, but since they were still thriving thousands of years after the Dingo was introduced, it is clear that the Quolls can cope with dogs.
 
Cane Toad
Another threat to Quolls is the Cane Toad; this poisonous animal was introduced to control a pest of sugar cane.  It has seriously damaged the wildlife of the areas it is in and is steadily spreading further.
Some of the Quolls appear to have found a way to cope with this problem.  The University of Sydney is attempting to teach the wild Quolls to avoid the Cane Toad.
 
Eastern Quolls as Pets
Although the most obvious Quoll to be kept as a pet is the Spotted-tailed Quoll, the Eastern Quoll is also a possible pet in the Future.
 
The Law
At present, Australian Mammals are not normally allowed to be kept as pets.  These laws were intended to protect the animals, and in many circumstances can be considered to be good laws, but laws can be changed.
Australia is a democracy and the government is our servant, not our master.  Sometimes our governments may be slow in recognising the will of the people.  Both the major political parties are frequently completely behind in their thinking.  Their policies may be out of date, and we the people frequently do not have a viable political party representing our wishes.
If enough people want a course of action, eventually it will be taken up; perhaps.  The Power of the People is Paramount.
 
Problems
Apart from being illegal, there are other problems with keeping Eastern Quolls as pets.  They are compatible with Humans, but not with some of our other pets.  Cats and Dogs can kill them, but both these animals are highly intelligent and can learn not to kill our other pets.  I know of plenty of cases of Cats living in total harmony with Guinea Pigs.
I have also known cases of Dogs and Cats being kept with Rabbits.
The biggest problem is not likely to be the owner’s own pets, but other pets in the area.
 
Toilet Training
Quolls will naturally use a common toilet area.  These highly intelligent animals can be trained to use a litter tray in the same way that Cats and Rabbits can.
This means that they can be kept in a house, but these are animals with a fairly wide natural home range.  They are also an extremely useful animal to have in the garden.  Perhaps the best way of keeping them would be for them to have the run of the house and also access to a very well fenced garden.
 
Cost
I will pass over the cost of getting this animal because at present they are not legally available.  The main cost would be the fencing of their outside area.  I that think in most cases the whole of a very large back yard would be ideal fenced area.  The fence would need to both keep the Quolls in and to keep other animals out.
This cost would be considerable, but it could still be a much cheaper pet to keep than a Dog or a Cat.
 
Life Span
The Eastern Quoll does not live very long.  It might only live for a couple of years.  The Spotted-tailed Quoll lives longer.  If this short lived animal were kept as a pet, it is probable that the owner would want to breed.
This would mean a group of these fascinating animals, not just a single one.
The Spotted-tail Quoll
The Spotted-tail Quoll, Dasyurus maculatus, is the second largest of the carnivorous Marsupials alive today.  This is on the assumption that the Thylacine is extinct. It is also called a Tiger Quoll.
 
Size
The Spotted-tail Quoll is about the size of a domestic Cat, Felis catus, growing to about 4 kilograms (10 pounds).
They were given several common names based on perceived similarities to animals more familiar to the early European settlers.  They called these animals things like the Tiger Cat, the Native Cat and similar misleading names.
These names are misleading because they are not related to the cats.
 
Intelligence
When I was at school we were taught that the Quolls, or Native cats as the teacher called them, were of very low intelligence and were just killing machines, quite unlike our more familiar Pussy Cats.  I accepted this much too uncritically at the time, but it is a general rule that hunting animals need some intelligence.
People who have actually kept Quolls of various species say that their intelligence is similar to that of a domestic Cat.
It is illegal to keep Quolls and most other Australian native animals as pets, but people have kept rescued ones, and no doubt some have been kept as pets illegally. 
 
Diet
The Spotted-tail Quoll is the largest of the Quolls.  It will kill and eat things as big as a small Wallaby such as the Tasmanian Pademelon. They also eat carrion and a large variety of other things like Rats, Mice, insects, Frogs, snakes, lizards, and anything else they can find.
In Tasmania, they are sometimes in direct competition to the Tasmanian Devil.  They have even been known to chase off Devils. This Quoll has a very strong jaw in relation to its size
 
Cane Toads and Quolls
Cane Toads were introduced by the totally irresponsible government of the time.  They are now steadily spreading down the coast of Australia.
The problem for the native animals is that the Cane Toad is poisonous for most of its life.  It was predicted that the native animals would be unable to adapt.  For example, how could a Quoll learn not to bite a Cane Toad when the first bite will kill the Quoll?
There is some evidence that Quolls are adapting to this poisonous animal.
 
Threatened
The Spotted-tail Quoll is threatened on the mainland, but still doing well in Tasmania.  The main threats on Tasmania are the increasing populations of Foxes and Humans.
 
Spotted-tail Quolls as Pets
 
The Law
Keeping this animal as a pet is mostly illegal.  However, people are getting increasing experience with keeping this animal.
The laws against the keeping of native animals as pets were designed to protect the animals, but the laws can be counter productive, and many people are questioning the law preventing the keeping of Native animals as pets if they are from captive bred populations.
 
Precedent
There is precedent for this approach.  For example, it is generally illegal to sell live native fish caught in the wild, but it can be quite legal to catch them and sell them.  I should add a note of caution here.  Many fish are subject to different rules about catching them.  Make sure you understand these before going fishing.
 
Another Similar Example
Before 1975, it was legal in South Australia to catch and sell or keep Macquarie Short Necked Turtles, Emydura macquarii.   In 1975, it was made illegal to catch any wild Turtle or Tortoise.  One fruit grower near the River Murray got a permit to catch 100 wild Macquarie Short Necked Turtles to try to start a captive breeding program.  His breeding program was very successful and he has been supplying the Pet industry round Australia since then.  His Turtles have now gone through at least three generations.
I think that his efforts have done more to protect this species than the legal prohibition on catching them.
The same sort of rule could be applied to the Spotted-tail Quoll.
 
Litter Trays
The Spotted-tail Quoll can be trained to use a litter tray in the same way as a Pussy Cat.
 
Nocturnal
The Spotted-tail Quoll is mostly nocturnal in the wild, but does come out in the daytime to bask in the sunlight.  This is similar to our more familiar Cats.
 
Hunting
This is an effective animal at controlling rats and mice.  A difference between them and Pussy Cats is that the Spotted-tail Quoll kills them straight away while a cat will sometimes play with a mouse for a long time before killing it. 
Apart from being more humane to the little mouse, it reduces the chance of the rodent escaping inside the house and colonising the house.
Quolls, like cats, will climb trees and will eat birds (and sometimes their eggs) but they are no worse for killing birds than Cats.
 
Affectionate
People who have kept Quolls say that they become just as affectionate towards Humans as Cats.
 
It’s Time
It is time for governments to reconsider the laws on keeping native animals as pets.
 
Northern Quoll
 
The Northern Quoll, Dasyurus hallucatus, is the smallest of the known Quolls.
 
Size
The Northern Quoll grows to a maximum of about 1.2 Kilograms (2.6 pounds) in weight, but is usually much smaller.  It is often described as being about the size of a small Cat.  I would call a 1.2 Kilogram Cat an extremely small Cat.  A typical house Cat is more like 4 Kilograms.
 
Breeding
The Northern Quoll has six or eight teats.   It does not have a fully formed pouch, but a flap of skin develops in the area of the teats.
There is a definite breeding season.  In about May each year, the males and the females start mating.  The males will mate with as many females as possible over a two week period and then die.
The females will raise as many young as they can, but are limited to one per teat.  When the babies are too big to cling on underneath they will sometimes ride on their mother’s back.  The mother will put the babies in a hidden nest and go back to feed them regularly.  Like most mammals, the babies learn things from their mother.
 
Diet
Northern Quolls are predators, eating a wide range of different animals including insects, mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.  They eat carrion as well as catching live animals.
 
Threats
The population of Northern Quolls has been under pressure for many years.  The animals had been hard hit by introduced animal diseases, deliberate trapping, shooting and poisoning by Humans, and habitat clearance.  As well as poisoning aimed at the Quolls themselves, over a million strychnine base baits were distributed for Dingo control.  These killed other animals including Quolls as well as Dingos.
Then a potential catastrophe occurred.  Cane Toads were introduced and threatened to totally wipe out the Northern Quolls.  A single bite of an adult Cane Toad kills a Quoll.  Since frogs are a natural part of the Quoll diet, they try to eat the Cane Toad, and die.
 
Critically Endangered
The Northern Quoll is critically endangered in the Northern Territory.  Nationally they are endangered.  When Cane Toads reach an area the Quolls often become locally extinct.  Sometimes this can happen within months.
 
Hope
Despite the threats to this animal’s existence, there are strong reasons to hope they will survive.
Both the governments and their scientists are taking the threats very seriously.   Here are some of the measures being taken to save the Northern Quoll.
 
Evacuation
Some Northern Quolls have been evacuated to off shore islands.  This is in addition to ones already on islands.  Considerable care is being taken to prevent Cane Toads reaching the islands.
 
Captive Breeding
A captive breeding program has been started with care being taken to ensure a wide genetic base, including some Quolls from populations still surviving in Cane Toad areas.
 
Remnant Populations
In some areas of Queensland where Cane Toads have been in for many years, there are still Northern Quolls.  These are being studied to determine how they are surviving with Cane Toads.
 
Teaching Quolls
Scientists are attempting to teach populations of Quolls to avoid trying to eat Cane Toads.  Quolls are intelligent animals with a good memory and a good sense of smell.  If they eat a very small Cane Toad they may just get sick and then avoid Cane Toads.
This might be what has happened in areas where the Quolls are surviving with Cane Toads.  Perhaps the mothers which have learned to avoid Cane Toads then teach their babies.  If so, this method of surviving is cultural.
Scientists are making baits with a small amount of Cane Toad in it and smelling of Cane Toad.  When a Quoll eats the bait they get sick but usually do not die.  The hope is that these animals will then avoid Cane Toads.  This appears to be working.
We can also hope that these will teach their babies to avoid Cane Toads.
 
The Western Quoll
 
The Western Quoll, Dasyurus geoffroii, is also called the Chuditch.   It used to range over about 70 percent of the Australian mainland, including parts of every mainland state as well as the Northern Territory. Now it is confined to part of the south west of Western Australia, living in the forests of Jarrah, Eucalyptus marginata, trees.  This is perhaps only about 5 percent of their previous range.
 
Size
The Western Quoll can sometimes reach 2 Kilograms (4.4 pounds) in weight, but is usually smaller than this.
 
Diet
Like all the Quolls, the Chuditch is a carnivore, and for its size is a mighty hunter.  It eats insects as well as larger prey like lizards, Rabbits frogs, birds, rats, mice and hopping mice.
Where there are Humans living they will eat from rubbish bins and can kill chickens.
Although it is primarily a carnivore, it will eat high energy vegetable foods like seeds and fruit.
 
Predators
Before Humans came to Australia, the main predator of the Western Quoll was probably the Wedge-tailed Eagle.
Now, as well as domestic animals like Dogs and Cats, they are killed by feral Cats and Dogs including the Dingo, and the introduced Red Fox.
Some have also been killed directly by Humans, using a variety of the methods this vicious species uses to kill like poison, trapping and shooting.
Chuditches also get run over by vehicles.
 
Breeding
The Western Quoll is a Marsupial, but its pouch is less formed than many Marsupials, rather consisting of folds of skin.
The gestation period is only about 16 days.  They only have one litter a year.  These litters may be as large as thirty babies, but the mother only has six teats.  As with other Marsupials, the babies crawl to the mother’s teats and hold on to a teat, drinking milk as they need it.  They stay attached to the teat for some time.  This means that a mother can only raise six babies.  The first six to reach a teat survive.
 
Vulnerable
There are only about 3000 Western Quolls left in the wild.  There was a high risk of them becoming extinct in the wild soon. 
 
Recovery
In Western Australia, large scale Fox baiting is occurring.  Western Quolls and many other native animals are making a steady comeback from the brink of extinction.
Life Span
Chuditches can breed at one year old.  One has been recorded as living for six years but it is believed that the average is less than that although the information about this species is contradictory.  The things published as fact include guesses.
 
Northern Population
The Northern population which was perhaps a separate subspecies is already extinct.  There are not even any of them in captivity.
 
Bronze Quoll
 
The Bronze Quoll, Dasyurus spartacus, used to be considered to be of the same species as the Western Quoll, but has now been classed as a separate species.  This little known Quoll is confined to an area of about 35,000 square kilometres in New Guinea.
It has been suggested that the extinct northern population of the Western Quoll might have been more similar to the Bronze Quoll than the existing southern population is.
 
Picture Credits
 
The drawing to the right of the main title was by Brehms Tierleben in Marsupialia; Dasyurus viverrinus, It is in the public domain because it was published in 1883.
 
The picture of the Eastern Quoll to the left of the title of that section was yy Michael Barritt & Karen May (Flickr, taken by Michael Barritt & Karen May) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
 
The picture of the spotted Tail Quoll to the left of that title is a public domain picture by Leonard G who says "Quoll imaged at a rescue park, Tasmania, Austrailia, probably Tiger Quoll, Dasyurus maculatus, indicated by spots on tail."
 
The Picture of a western Quoll to the left of that title was taken at Melborne Museum  By Nezumi Dumousseau (Own work) [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons.
 
The Drawing of a Northern Quoll was by John Gould, F.R.S., Mammals of Australia, Vol. I Plate 52, London, 1863, and is in the public domain.
 
The Photograph of a bronze Quoll was from Piniterest and was probably taken by Andrew Emmet.