Tiger quoll, spot-tailed quoll, spotted-tail quoll (Dasyurus maculatus maculatus – south east mainland population)
The south east mainland population of the tiger quoll has recently been upgraded from vulnerable to endangered under the EPBC Act. It has declined by at least 50% in New South Wales and Victoria and is considered locally extinct in South Australia (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) 2004).
1080 baiting has a significant impact on the tiger quoll. In the TSSC’s advice to the Minister on listing the tiger quoll as endangered, it is noted that:
“research at two study sites in southern New South Wales and one in Victoria indicated local declines in the order of 60 - 100% over the past five years, the researcher suggesting aerial baiting for wild dogs with 1080 poison to be the primary cause of these localised population declines and extinctions”.
The TSSC concludes that:
“[1080 baiting programs] may play a significant role in localised population declines to the extent that local populations may decline rapidly to extinction”.
Reports carried out by Belcher (1999, 2000a) makes particularly clear the threat to all quoll populations from 1080 baiting campaigns:
“Survey results from Otway Ranges found that the tiger quoll was critically endangered and that the decline was most likely due to 1080 poison baiting and clear fell logging” (Belcher 1999).
“Population monitoring in south-eastern NSW and East Gippsland has documented population crashes and local extinctions following 1080 baiting” (Belcher 2000a).
“Aerial, hand and mound 1080 poison baiting is widespread throughout the (tiger quoll) species range in QLD, NSW and VIC. The impact of baiting on populations monitored at Baja State Forest, Tallanganda State Forest and Suggan Buggan ranged from 60% to 100% reduction in local populations” (Belcher 1999).
“The results of the analysis of tiger quoll records from the Otway Ranges and the Southwest of VIC indicate that the species is likely to become extinct within the next 10 years under current land management practices, such as clear-felling and 1080 poison baiting” (Belcher 1999).
When the tiger quoll was listed as endangered under the EPBC Act, the TSSC (2004) had found that it met criterion 1, which meant that it has undergone, is suspected to have undergone or is likely to undergo in the immediate future a severe reduction in numbers (or ‘An observed, estimated, inferred or suspected population size reduction of 50% over the last 10 years or three generations, whichever is the longer, where the reduction or its causes may not have ceased OR may not be understood OR may not be reversible’). The TSSC stated that the threats to species (including “inappropriate 1080 poison baiting”) continue to operate at varied intensities throughout its range and both the historic and future impact of identified threats is difficult to quantify.
In order for the conservation status of the tiger quoll to move up to the critically endangered level, under this criteria, it would have undergone or would likely undergo in the immediate future a very severe reduction in numbers (or ‘An observed, estimated, inferred or suspected population size reduction of 80% over the last 10 years or three generations, whichever is the longer, where the reduction or its causes may not have ceased OR may not be understood OR may not be reversible’).
Considering that the species has already undergone a reduction of at least 50% and Belcher (1999) has recorded local population reductions after baiting ranging from 60% to 100%, it is possible to conclude that the species would meet criterion 1 to be listed as critically endangered if this threat were to continue.
The Department of Environment and Heritage’s (DEH) EPBC Act ‘Administrative Guidelines on Significance: Supplement for the Tiger Quoll (southeastern mainland population) and the use of 1080’ (2004), states:
“It is an offence for any person to undertake an action that is likely to have a significant impact on the southeastern mainland population of the Tiger Quoll without approval …Activities that are likely to require referral under the EPBC Act include large scale 1080 baiting (aerial or broadscale surface baiting) as used for wild dog and dingo control in areas where the southeastern mainland population of the Tiger Quoll is known to, or potentially, occurs.”
However, several 1080 baiting programs have been carried out in tiger quoll habitat without referral under the EPBC Act. For instance 1080 aerial baiting trials are currently being conducted in north-east Victoria (known tiger quoll habitat), without referral and the nominator is aware of at least one 1080 baiting program having been carried out in Kosciusko National Park without referral (see letter from Humane Society International to the Minister for Environment & Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, October 2004).
Since their publication there has been a disregard for the Guidelines in EPBC Act decision making processes. The Guidelines imply that large scale 1080 aerial baiting is likely to have a significant impact on the tiger quoll, and states “Aerial or broadcast surface baiting should only be used in areas where it can be demonstrated that there is a low risk to Tiger Quolls”, however 1080 aerial baiting programs in key tiger quoll habitat areas, which have been referred under the EPBC Act, have been approved without being declared controlled actions and without full environmental assessments. These baiting programs were carried out in NSW and are listed further on, in this section.
The NSW Government has been using preliminary results from recent studies into the impact of 1080 on tiger quolls to justify the reintroduction of large-scale aerial 1080 baiting in Kosciusko in the Adaminaby and Yaouk areas in 2004 and 2005. These preliminary results come from studies carried out by the NSW DEC and the Queensland Department of Natural Resources & Mines. In NSW at least one quoll was found to have died of 1080 poisoning and in the Queensland at least two quolls died of 1080 poisoning. These results are discussed further below under the section ‘Recent 1080 baiting trials carried out by the NSW Department of Environment & Conservation and the Queensland Department of Natural Resources & Mines’. The nominator believes it is premature to use the results to conclude that 1080 poison has a low impact on quolls when they are an endangered species.
The Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment is currently carrying out 1080 aerial baiting trails in quoll habitat in north-east Victoria. As discussed above, these baiting trials have not been referred to the federal DEH for approval despite the EPBC Act Guidelines. Aerial baiting has previously been prohibited in Victoria as it is the most indiscriminate method of baiting. The aim of these trials is to allow the long-term introduction of aerial baiting in north-east Victoria and Gippsland (XXXX XXXX pers. comm. January 2006). This is of considerable concern when considering that these locations (north-east Victoria and Gippsland) contain some of the last remaining populations of tiger quolls in Victoria (Parks Flora and Fauna Division, June 2001).
The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) released findings from a Preliminary Review on the use of 1080 (the APVMA Preliminary Review), in May 2005. Among the APVMA Review’s (2005a) findings were:
“Aerial baiting using biomarkers indicates that a high proportion of resident quolls are likely to locate baits deployed at high rates by this unselective method.”
“…trapping results indicate substantial reductions in tiger quoll populations after aerial wild dog baiting.”
“The meat baits used for canid control are likely to be toxic to native carnivores such as quolls.”
As a result of these findings the APVMA stresses:
“Do NOT exceed 2 baits per km in locations where carnivorous native mammals are active”.
Note: the findings from the APVMA Preliminary Review were released for public consultation on 23rd May 2005. Following the public consultation period these preliminary findings are being revisited to include assessments of the public submissions received. A final report has not yet been released. The APVMA’s recommendations do not have regulatory status at this time.
In reality, 1080 Baiting campaigns for canid control fall far short of meeting even these minimum standards. The nominator is aware of at least six 1080 aerial baiting campaigns carried out in 2005 alone, in areas known to contain tiger quoll populations that exceeded this minimum:
October to November 2005 – 30 baits per km were dropped in the Murrumbidgee Gorge, Yaouk Valley.
October 2005 – 10 baits per km were dropped in the Scabby Range Nature Reserve, Yaouk Nature Reserve and a section of northern Kosciusko National Park.
October 2005 – 10 baits per km were dropped in a section of the Kosciusko National Park adjacent to the Snowy Plain area.
May 2005 – 21 baits per km were dropped in the Singleton Military Area and Bulga Coal Mine.
May 2005 – 40 baits per km were dropped in the Styx River and 10 baits per km were dropped in Cunnawarra National Park and Jacobs River.
June 2005 – 30 baits per km were dropped at Murrumbidgee Gorge, Yaouk Valley.
All baits contained 6 mg of 1080, which is enough to kill a large male quoll.
These baiting campaigns were referred to DEH under the EPBC Act. As discussed above, despite the obvious indication that these actions were likely to have significant impacts on local quoll populations, DEH approved them without any environmental assessment. The nominator cannot understand how DEH came to this decision, particularly when comparing the rate of bait deployment with APVMA’s recommendation to “NOT exceed 2 baits per km”.
Furthermore, the directions for the use of 1080 baits for the control of foxes and wild dogs in Victoria recommend minimum distances between baits of only 20 to 150 metres (Landcare 2004, 1999).
The APVMA Preliminary Review is discussed further under the section ‘Australian Pesticides & Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) 1080 Review’. The nominator would like to note that while we quote the APVMA Preliminary Review (2005a), we do not generally advocate its claims that careful bait placement can ‘ensure’ that baiting does not threaten tiger quoll populations. Evidence, documented below, indicates that 1080 baits ‘placed with great care’ for targeting wild dogs can still be fatal to quolls.
During a non-lethal study, Glenn and Dickman (2003b) observed tiger quolls taking 3-4 baits in one night from bait stations 400 m apart from each other. This would indicate that even a low bait placement rate of 2 baits per km would still pose a risk to quolls. Furthermore, according to Murray (1996 & 1998), Belcher (2000b) and Murray et al. (2000) tiger quolls will consume baits on the surface and will excavate and consume baits buried to 8 cm depth.
Results from a study carried out by Glenn and Dickman (2003a) found that target animals took only 15% of baits. Table 5 shows the results of Glenn and Dickman’s (2003a) survey, indicating that quolls were significantly the main species to take baits – 46.2% of baits were taken by tiger quolls compared with 8.5% wild dogs and 6.6% red foxes.