A farmer in southern Australia captured an animal considered locally extinct for over a century while trying to protect his chickens. Photos show the spotted creature.
Frank Pao-Ling Tsai, a trout farmer in Beachport, South Australia, heard a “panic” from his chickens and rushed outside early in the morning on Tuesday, Sept. 26, he told McClatchy News in an email.
Inside the coup, Tsai found a spotted creature and a dead chicken, he said.
“I had no idea what it was at first,” Tsai told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “I expected to find a cat, but I found this little animal instead.”
Photos show the captured animal. It has a furry brown body, long tail and smattering of white spots. It appears angry and bared its teeth at the camera, photos show.
Tsai captured the creature in a plastic chicken cage, he told McClatchy News. He took photos and shared them in hopes of identifying the animal.
Wildlife officials identified the animal as a spotted-tailed quoll, the National Parks and Wildlife Service of South Australia told McClatchy News.
Quolls are “about cat-sized” marsupials with a “cat-like shape but a lot stronger jaws and a lot longer canine teeth,” Limestone Coast district wildlife ranger Ross Anderson told McClatchy News.
The spotted-tailed quoll, also known as the tiger quoll, is an endangered quoll species and the “largest native carnivore left on the (Australia) mainland,” according to the Australian Conservation Foundation. An estimated 14,000 spotted-tailed quolls are left in the wild, the organization said.
The last officially documented sighting of a spotted-tailed quoll in South Australia was in the 1880s, Anderson said. The species has been considered locally extinct for over 130 years.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event, really,” Anderson told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“It’s amazing to have something we thought was extinct turning up at our backdoor,” Anderson told The Guardian.
The quoll Tsai originally captured managed to escape out a damaged corner of the cage, he said.
Wildlife officials set up another trap and again captured a spotted-tailed quoll, Anderson said. “We reckon it’s the same animal based on the scars on its face.”
“We can’t be sure where it’s come from,” Anderson told The Guardian.
“It could have been a relic population,” Anderson told McClatchy News. “(Or) it could have been an animal that’s moved from other areas …. (or) it may have escaped from captivity.”
“We took some DNA to see if we can work out the likely origins,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to get some information and it would be fabulous if it turned out to be a relic population.”
After being checked by a vet and DNA-tested, the captured quoll was released, Anderson said.
Wildlife officials will set up cameras and traps to study the rediscovered quoll species and see if there are more quolls around Beachport, he said.
Beachport is in the state of South Australia and about 800 miles southwest of Sydney.
UPDATE (9/29): The article was updated with comments from Ross Anderson and the National Parks and Wildlife Service of South Australia.