MOVES are afoot to send more Tasmanian wildlife to the mainland in the next stage of restoring long lost ecosystems.
Since 2012, a group of 32 Tasmanian bettongs have been helping rehabilitate the ecosystem at the Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary in Canberra.
The the next phase of this experimental project will reintroduce wild quolls from Tasmania as soon as next year.
Quolls have been extinct in the Mulligans area from the 1960s and bettongs since the early 1900s.
Adrian Manning, an ecologist at the Australian National University, speaking at the Australian Mammal Society conference in Hobart, said the project involving the ACT Government and Australian Research Council was developing the sanctuary as a 485ha ecological laboratory.
Prof Manning said when bettongs dug holes while hunting for native truffles, they aided the rehabilitation of degraded soils, to improve water infiltration and plant germination.
He said of the 60 bettongs taken to Canberra, 32 had been released into the sanctuary behind predator-proof fences where they had been busy breeding.
“There are now 200. They have been doing really well,’’ he said, adding that the bettongs were also responsible for about half of the digging that went on in the sanctuary.
He said quolls had been selected to perform the primary predator role, and there were plans to reintroduce other species, from other states, to eat down plants and catch insects.
Prof Manning said the Mulligans project was intended to act as a guide for the potential restoration of vast tracts of degraded ecosystems on the Australian mainland.
He said fences to protect large areas from feral predators such as foxes would not be feasible, but it was hoped that dingoes could play a key role in keeping foxes at bay.
University of Tasmania zoologist Menna Jones said bandicoots, pademelons and Tasmanian devils could also act as ecosystem influencers for restoring the health, vibrancy and beauty of many parts of Australia.