Survival and dispersal data for eastern quolls (Dasyurus viverrinus) reintroduced to Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary, Australian Capital Territory, Australia, 2016-2018

SUMMARY Threatened species recovery programs are increasingly turning to reintroductions to reverse biodiversity loss. Here we present a real-world example where tactics (techniques which influence post-release performance and persistence) and an adaptive management framework (which incorporates feedback between monitoring and future actions) improved reintroduction success. Across three successive trials we investigated the influence of tactics on the effective survival and post-release dispersal of endangered eastern quolls (Dasyurus viverrinus) reintroduced into Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary, Australian Capital Territory. Founders were monitored for 42 days post-release, and probability of survival and post-release dispersal were tested against trial, origin, sex, den sharing and presence of pouch young. We adopted an adaptive management framework, using monitoring to facilitate rapid learning and to implement interventions that improved reintroduction success. Founders released in the first trial were less likely to survive (28.6%, n = 14) than those founders released the second (76.9%, n = 13) and third trials (87.5%, n = 8). We adapted several tactics in the second and third trials, including the selection of female-only founders to avoid elevated male mortality, and post-mating releases to reduce stress. Founders that moved dens between consecutive nights were less likely to survive, suggesting that minimising post-release dispersal can increase the probability of survival. The probability of moving dens was lower in the second and third trials, for females, and when den sharing with another founder. This study demonstrates that, through iterative trials of tactics involving monitoring and learning, adaptive management can be used to significantly improve the success of reintroduction programs. STUDY SITE Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary (MFWS) is a 485 ha reserve containing critically endangered yellow-box Eucalyptus melliodora and Blakely’s red gum Eucalyptus blakelyi grassy woodland and is situated in north-east Canberra, ACT Australia (-35.166543, 149.157946). MFWS is enclosed by predator-proof fencing to exclude non-native animals such as red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), cats (Felis catus), European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and European hares (Lepus europaeus), which have been eradicated within the exclosure. The MFWS fence design includes a ‘floppy top’ which prevents introduced predators from climbing into the sanctuary but does not prevent animals from climbing out into the surrounding landscape. MFWS, and the adjoining Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve, are used as an ‘outdoor laboratory’ and form the location of the Mulligans Flat-Goorooyarroo Woodland Experiment (MFGO Experiment, www.mfgowoodlandexperiment.org.au). The experiment aims to restore biodiversity and ecological function to this critically endangered box-gum grassy woodland community. METHODS We reintroduced the eastern quoll into MFWS in a series of three trials over three years (Trial 1 in 2016, Trial 2 in 2017, and Trial 3 in 2018). To maximise genetic diversity, founders in the Trials 1 and 2 were selected from both captive-bred and wild populations, and in Trial 3 only wild founders were selected. Captive founders were sourced from Mount Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre (Mt Rothwell), situated 60 km south-west of Melbourne. Wild founders were derived from free-ranging populations across 14 geographic regions in Tasmania, separated by at least 15 km or a significant geographical barrier to eastern quoll dispersal. To minimise impacts on the source population and maximise genetic diversity in the reintroduced population, no more than two animals in each cohort originated from any one site. We selected founders that were in fair to excellent body condition (using a subjective assessment of fat and muscle stored between the hips and spine), weighed more than 640g, and were estimated to be 1-2 years old (inferring from tooth condition and wear). They were translocated to the ACT by air and road, where they were anaesthetised and assessed for health and disease. Founders were microchipped (each animal was identified using a four-character microchip code, see S1 Table) and fitted with VHF collars (32g, V6C 163 Zilco, Sirtrack Ltd, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand) or GPS collars (38g, LiteTrack 30 RF, Sirtrack Ltd, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand). Scat, fur, blood and ear (for DNA extraction) samples were collected. Founders were monitored using VHF collars in Trials 1 and 2 and VHF-enabled GPS collars in Trial 3. Survival and den location were monitored daily for 42 days post-release (the ‘establishment period’) because survival plateaued after this period in Trial 1. We removed collars from males after this period and from females after their young had dispersed. We located collars immediately if a mortality signal was detected and conducted necropsies on all deceased animals that could be located. We conducted post-release health checks every two weeks, though timing and frequency varied due to the reproductive stage of females, weight fluctuations (influencing collar fit), logistical constraints, and ability to re-trap the targeted animal. We conducted all trapping with wire cage traps (31 cm x 31 cm x 70 cm) that had padded doors, plastic lining (to collect scats), and were covered with a hessian sack. We checked traps before first light to minimise stress and allow animals to find shelter before daylight. Health checks included recording body mass, body condition, head and pes length, pouch occupancy, crown rump length of pouch young (CRL), and collection of fur and scat samples. We conducted health checks without sedation but with procedures to minimise handling time (generally <10 mins) and released animals at the point of capture. When non-target founders were captured, they were either given a health check or were weighed and released, depending on the timing of their next scheduled health check. In total, we recorded 29 founder captures in Trial 1, 50 in Trial 2 and 71 in Trial 3 during the establishment periods. In late February through to early March 2016, fourteen eastern quolls (female n = 6, male n = 8) were translocated to MFWS (Table 1). None of the females were carrying pouch young because mating was yet to occur in late austral Autumn to early Winter. Releases were carried out immediately (i.e., animals were transported to ACT, underwent health assessments, and were released on the same day) from a cotton bag in randomised locations within MFWS. Releases occurred at night to minimise stress and to provide maximum time to explore MFWS and find a den before first light. No supplementary food was provided. ETHICS STATEMENT Translocations were carried out under licenses from the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE, permits TFA 16025 and 17091, export licences 12818/16 and 13528/17), Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (permit 14505167), and ACT Territory and Municipal Services (import licence L120161261). Reintroduction procedures were approved by The Australian National University Animal Experimentation Ethics Committee (protocol A2016/02).
Type
Collection
Title
Survival and dispersal data for eastern quolls (Dasyurus viverrinus) reintroduced to Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary, Australian Capital Territory, Australia, 2016-2018
Brief Title
Survival and dispersal of eastern quolls reintroduced to Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary
Alternate Title
Wilson et al (2020) Adapting reintroduction tactics in successive trials increases the likelihood of establishment for an endangered carnivore in a fenced sanctuary
Collection Type
Dataset
Access Privileges
Fenner School of Environment & Society
DOI - Digital Object Identifier
10.25911/5ed4777e12fac
Metadata Language
English
Data Language
English
Significance Statement
First real-world example where tactics and adaptive management improved reintroduction success.
Brief Description
Survival and dispersal data for eastern quolls (Dasyurus viverrinus) reintroduced to Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary across three trials from 2016 to 2018.
Full Description
SUMMARY Threatened species recovery programs are increasingly turning to reintroductions to reverse biodiversity loss. Here we present a real-world example where tactics (techniques which influence post-release performance and persistence) and an adaptive management framework (which incorporates feedback between monitoring and future actions) improved reintroduction success. Across three successive trials we investigated the influence of tactics on the effective survival and post-release dispersal of endangered eastern quolls (Dasyurus viverrinus) reintroduced into Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary, Australian Capital Territory. Founders were monitored for 42 days post-release, and probability of survival and post-release dispersal were tested against trial, origin, sex, den sharing and presence of pouch young. We adopted an adaptive management framework, using monitoring to facilitate rapid learning and to implement interventions that improved reintroduction success. Founders released in the first trial were less likely to survive (28.6%, n = 14) than those founders released the second (76.9%, n = 13) and third trials (87.5%, n = 8). We adapted several tactics in the second and third trials, including the selection of female-only founders to avoid elevated male mortality, and post-mating releases to reduce stress. Founders that moved dens between consecutive nights were less likely to survive, suggesting that minimising post-release dispersal can increase the probability of survival. The probability of moving dens was lower in the second and third trials, for females, and when den sharing with another founder. This study demonstrates that, through iterative trials of tactics involving monitoring and learning, adaptive management can be used to significantly improve the success of reintroduction programs. STUDY SITE Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary (MFWS) is a 485 ha reserve containing critically endangered yellow-box Eucalyptus melliodora and Blakely’s red gum Eucalyptus blakelyi grassy woodland and is situated in north-east Canberra, ACT Australia (-35.166543, 149.157946). MFWS is enclosed by predator-proof fencing to exclude non-native animals such as red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), cats (Felis catus), European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and European hares (Lepus europaeus), which have been eradicated within the exclosure. The MFWS fence design includes a ‘floppy top’ which prevents introduced predators from climbing into the sanctuary but does not prevent animals from climbing out into the surrounding landscape. MFWS, and the adjoining Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve, are used as an ‘outdoor laboratory’ and form the location of the Mulligans Flat-Goorooyarroo Woodland Experiment (MFGO Experiment, www.mfgowoodlandexperiment.org.au). The experiment aims to restore biodiversity and ecological function to this critically endangered box-gum grassy woodland community. METHODS We reintroduced the eastern quoll into MFWS in a series of three trials over three years (Trial 1 in 2016, Trial 2 in 2017, and Trial 3 in 2018). To maximise genetic diversity, founders in the Trials 1 and 2 were selected from both captive-bred and wild populations, and in Trial 3 only wild founders were selected. Captive founders were sourced from Mount Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre (Mt Rothwell), situated 60 km south-west of Melbourne. Wild founders were derived from free-ranging populations across 14 geographic regions in Tasmania, separated by at least 15 km or a significant geographical barrier to eastern quoll dispersal. To minimise impacts on the source population and maximise genetic diversity in the reintroduced population, no more than two animals in each cohort originated from any one site. We selected founders that were in fair to excellent body condition (using a subjective assessment of fat and muscle stored between the hips and spine), weighed more than 640g, and were estimated to be 1-2 years old (inferring from tooth condition and wear). They were translocated to the ACT by air and road, where they were anaesthetised and assessed for health and disease. Founders were microchipped (each animal was identified using a four-character microchip code, see S1 Table) and fitted with VHF collars (32g, V6C 163 Zilco, Sirtrack Ltd, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand) or GPS collars (38g, LiteTrack 30 RF, Sirtrack Ltd, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand). Scat, fur, blood and ear (for DNA extraction) samples were collected. Founders were monitored using VHF collars in Trials 1 and 2 and VHF-enabled GPS collars in Trial 3. Survival and den location were monitored daily for 42 days post-release (the ‘establishment period’) because survival plateaued after this period in Trial 1. We removed collars from males after this period and from females after their young had dispersed. We located collars immediately if a mortality signal was detected and conducted necropsies on all deceased animals that could be located. We conducted post-release health checks every two weeks, though timing and frequency varied due to the reproductive stage of females, weight fluctuations (influencing collar fit), logistical constraints, and ability to re-trap the targeted animal. We conducted all trapping with wire cage traps (31 cm x 31 cm x 70 cm) that had padded doors, plastic lining (to collect scats), and were covered with a hessian sack. We checked traps before first light to minimise stress and allow animals to find shelter before daylight. Health checks included recording body mass, body condition, head and pes length, pouch occupancy, crown rump length of pouch young (CRL), and collection of fur and scat samples. We conducted health checks without sedation but with procedures to minimise handling time (generally <10 mins) and released animals at the point of capture. When non-target founders were captured, they were either given a health check or were weighed and released, depending on the timing of their next scheduled health check. In total, we recorded 29 founder captures in Trial 1, 50 in Trial 2 and 71 in Trial 3 during the establishment periods. In late February through to early March 2016, fourteen eastern quolls (female n = 6, male n = 8) were translocated to MFWS (Table 1). None of the females were carrying pouch young because mating was yet to occur in late austral Autumn to early Winter. Releases were carried out immediately (i.e., animals were transported to ACT, underwent health assessments, and were released on the same day) from a cotton bag in randomised locations within MFWS. Releases occurred at night to minimise stress and to provide maximum time to explore MFWS and find a den before first light. No supplementary food was provided. ETHICS STATEMENT Translocations were carried out under licenses from the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE, permits TFA 16025 and 17091, export licences 12818/16 and 13528/17), Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (permit 14505167), and ACT Territory and Municipal Services (import licence L120161261). Reintroduction procedures were approved by The Australian National University Animal Experimentation Ethics Committee (protocol A2016/02).
Contact Email
belinda.wilson@anu.edu.au
Contact Address
Fenner School of Environment and Society, College of Science, Frank Fenner Building, Building 141, The Australian National University, Canberra ACT 2605, Australia
Contact Phone Number
+61 2 612 58198
Principal Investigator
Adrian D. Manning
Supervisors
Belinda A. Wilson; Maldwyn J. Evans; Adrian D. Manning
Collaborators
Belinda A. Wilson; Maldwyn J. Evans; Adrian D. Manning
Fields of Research
0602 - Ecology; 0502 - Environmental Science and Management; 0501 - Ecological Applications
Keywords
Reintroduction; Translocation; Tactics; Trials; Adaptive management; Threatened species; Eastern quoll; Carnivore; Sanctuary; Exclusion fence; Australia
Type of Research Activity
Applied Research
Date Coverage
2016
2018
Geospatial Location
text
Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Date of data creation
2018
Year of data publication
2020
Creator(s) for Citation
Belinda A.
Wilson
Maldwyn J.
Evans
William G.
Batson
Sam C.
Banks
Iain J.
Gordon
Donald B.
Fletcher
Claire
Wimpenny
Jenny
Newport
Emily
Belton
Annette
Rypalski
Tim
Portas
Adrian D.
Manning
Publisher for Citation
The Australian National University Data Commons
Publications
doi
Adapting reintroduction tactics in successive trials increases the likelihood of establishment for an endangered carnivore in a fenced sanctuary
Wilson BA, Evans MJ, Batson WG, Banks SC, Gordon IJ, Fletcher DB, Wimpenny C, Newport J, Belton E, Rypalski A, Portas T, Manning AD (PLOS One, in review)
Related Websites
http://www.mfgowoodlandexperiment.org.au/
Mulligans Flat-Goorooyarroo Woodland Experiment
Access Rights
Coauthorship with the data provider (Belinda A Wilson) for any publication of research utilising this data is an expected outcome.
Access Rights Type
Restricted
Licence Type
CC-BY-NC - Attribution-NonCommercial (Version 4.0)
Retention Period
Indefinitely
Data Size
128 KB
Data Management Plan
No
Status: Published
Published to:
  • Australian National University
  • Australian National Data Service
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