Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Quenda quest: volunteers take stock of Perth's 'lovely' backyard marsupials

For a week each spring about 140 people record every animal they spot to help researchers understand the health of a population threatened by cats and foxes

Tuesday 6 October 2015 22.20 BSTLast modified on Tuesday 6 October 201522.21 BST

In backyards across the suburban fringe of Perth, people have been excitedly checking for cone-shaped divots in preparation for the annual spring quenda count, which is in its third year.

Quendas are a subspecies of the southern brown bandicoot, a small, ground-dwelling marsupial that has been hunted to critically low numbers by cats and foxes in south-eastern Australia.

But in Western Australia, particularly in the “tree-change” suburbs that cling to the edge of the Darling Scarp on the eastern fringe of Perth, the quendas are holding their own. For a week each spring, about 140 people who regularly spot the animals make a record of every quenda they see on their properties, trying to distinguish between individuals.

That data, which is collated by WWF Australia, is then sent to the WA Department of Parks and Wildlife and is used to form a picture of the long-term sustainability of the population.

One of those counters is Christine Tapsell. She joined the first community quenda survey in 2012 – the precursor to the annual spring count – after stumbling across what looked like a large, rotund rat one night when locking her chickens away.

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