Researchers are thrilled to discover a pile of extremely rare polka-dot babies

Recently, ecologists at Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary in Australia were conducting a routine survey when they noticed something amazing. A group of female western quolls appeared to have something wriggling in their pouches. The ecologists were thrilled — the sanctuary’s very first baby western quolls had arrived.

Western quolls are marsupial mammals who grow to be about the size of a domestic cat. These fuzzy animals play a key role in controlling populations of small invertebrates, including certain reptiles and birds. According to the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC), western quolls used to be present in many habitats across a vast portion of the Australian mainland. But these days, their numbers are dwindling.

“Following European settlement, their range contracted dramatically,” AWC wrote in a press release. “Apart from reintroductions, they are now found only in the south-western corner of [Western Australia], and even within this region, their distribution is patchy.”

In recent months, AWC ecologists have worked to reintroduce western quoll populations to Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary, an area where the animals were formerly extinct. Finding baby quolls is a positive sign that the reintroduction is working.

“Through regular monitoring, we can see the quolls are doing well at the sanctuary, and encountering the first pouch young is a positive sign that they have adjusted to the new environment,” AWC senior field ecologist Georgina Anderson said in a press release.

This month, animal advocates transported a group of quolls cross-country as part of continued efforts to help them thrive more widely. So far, it seems their efforts have been worthwhile.

“We are thrilled to see that Mt Gibson’s Western Quoll population has settled in,” Anderson said in the press release. “[They’re] showing promising signs of successful breeding.”

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