Playing matchmaker to save Australia's endangered quolls

Animals to be bred with toad-aversion gene so they won't feed on poisonous amphibians

Quolls were dying from eating poisonous toads. To save them, scientists released those without a taste for toads into quoll populations so that their offspring will stop eating toads.
Quolls were dying from eating poisonous toads. To save them, scientists released those without a taste for toads into quoll populations so that their offspring will stop eating toads.PHOTO: NYTIMES

SYDNEY • Australia's northern quolls are small animals with big appetites - and they are eating themselves to death.

Nocturnal marsupials about the size of a squirrel, quolls once roamed all of Northern Australia. But a disposition to eat just about any animal smaller than themselves led to a steady diet of cane toads, an invasive and poisonous species. Since the 1900s, quoll populations have plummeted. In parts of Cape York Peninsula in north-eastern Australia, toad-eating quolls were completely wiped out, and the animal has been considered endangered nationwide since 2005.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2018, with the headline 'Playing matchmaker to save Australia's endangered quolls'. Subscribe