Mountain Pygmy Possum
Photo by Dr Linda Broome
Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby
Secret Creek Sanctuary holds the largest captive population of Eastern Quolls on mainland Australia (read more about our conservation projects). The Eastern Quoll is a ground-dwelling maruspial carnivore, once widely distributed across NSW, VIC, SA and Tasmania. Unfortunately the Eastern Quoll is now thought to be extinct on mainland Australia, the last confirmed sighting was in Vaucluse in Sydney in 1963. Threats include a disease such as toxoplasmosis which is spread by cats, as well as competition from foxes and cats, hunting by people, and non-target control from taking poisoned rabbits. Eastern Quolls are still relatively common in Tasmania but there is now ten year data showing their decline in this state, their last island refuge, and there has been a recent submission to list them as threatened in Tasmania.
Eastern Quolls use hollow logs, burrows and rock piles as dens, with several dens located throughout their territory. Preying upon animals up to the size of rabbits, these quolls are predominantly insectivorous eating a variety of small prey, vegetation and fruit.
Supporting Secret Creek
The Australian Ecosystems Foundation has supported breeding programs for the native species below since their beginnings at Secret Creek Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is located on the edge of Lithgow, bordering Newnes Plateau Reserve and the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage area. The primary focus of the Sanctuary is breeding for the conservation of threatened and declining species of the Blue Mountains region.
However, it also provides a novel opportunity for public education and engagement; visitors can see and learn all about regional native species and their habitats, all within a 2 hour drive from Sydney. Tours are only available Thursday to Saturday evenings as part of a dining experience at Secret Creek Cafe- bookings only through Secret Creek Cafe (www.secretcreekcafe.com)
The largest marsupial predator on mainland Australia, the Spotted-tailed Quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) is also known as the Tiger Quoll or Tiger Cat in recognition of its ferocious appetite and wild-sounding vocalisations. The only Quoll with spots on its tail, Spotted-tailed Quolls grow to 1m long and up to 7kg. Preying upon animals up to the size of small wallabies, this quoll is a veracious predator hunting birds, mammals, reptiles, insects and frogs.They have a similar breeding cycle to Eastern Quolls (April – July), and raise up to 6 young in a shallow pouch before the young leave the maternal den in December – January. Spotted-tailed Quolls have very large home ranges of up to 5000 hectares.
Spotted-tailed Quolls are the only arboreal (tree-climbing) quoll and prefer forested habitats, therefore they are threatened due to deforestation, as well as being known to take incorrectly placed fox and dog baits and having to compete with foxes and feral cats. Many animals are found in the urban-bushland fringe where they come in contact with pet dogs or are illegally shot or trapped for killing domestic chickens. The Spotted-tailed Quoll is now listed as Endangered on mainland Australia with the Tasmanian population currently stable. AEFI is breeding the Spotted-tailed Quoll at Secret Creek Sanctuary as part of a breeding network across Australia, with a regular exchange of animals. The captive animals are also used to help educate people about living alonside the Spotted-tailed Quoll, which is still found in the local Blue Mountains area. The Foundation is running a community engagement project around this species.
The Dingo (Canis lupus dingo), Australia's largest predator, is a medium-sized canid standing around 70cm tall and weighing up to 24kg, thought to have evoloved from the Asian grey wolf (Canis lupus). The predominant colour is sandy-yellow to red-ginger although white animals are found in alpine areas. Dingoes have erect ears, bushy tail, long legs and narrow snout. Like their wolf relatives, they do not bark, rather producing a yap-howl as well as a normal howl which is used to communicate and define territories. Dingoes breed only once per year and give birth to around 5 pups during winter in an underground den. Pups will become independent at around 4 months before moving off to establish their own territories which can be up to 77 square kilometres or over 500,000 hectares (1.2 million acres). In eastern Australia, territories average 15 square kilometres.
Since establishing in Australia several thousand years ago, the Dingo has adapted to a range of Australian environments and were often used by Indigenous people for hunting and companionship. The other 2 large predators, the Tasmanian Devil and Thylacine, or Tasmanian Tiger became extinct on the mainland after the Dingo's arrival, presumably due to competition and predation. Dingos prey upon a variety of animals from insects, mice and rats through to wallabies, kangaroos and buffalo. While perceived and controlled as pests by the sheep industry, the Dingo has otherwise been associated with ecosystem benefits, even potentailly benefitting the cattle industry by preying on rabbits and keeping populations of kangaroos at sustainable levels. Importantly, recent studies have shown that dingoes play an important role in controlling fox numbers and some of the last remaining populations of endangered species such as Bilbies and Nailtail wallabies have been associated with healthy populations of Dingoes.
The main threat to Dingoes is outbreeding which occurs when they breed with wild or domestic dogs. It is thought that the loss of the family structure due to dominant animals being killed through control measures allows dogs to breed with the family group. There are now very few genetically pure Dingoes left in Australia. Secret Creek Sanctuary is breeding pure Dingoes including Alpine Dingoes to ensure that the species' genetics are maintained. Offspring are exchanged with other breeders so that the Australian Dingo does not become extinct due to hybridisation. The Foundation is also supporting research to help define what a pure dingo is and what level of hybridisation alters its ecological function.
The Long-nosed Potoroo (Potorous tridactylus) is a member of the ancient family, the Rat-kangaroos. These animals have been known to inhabit continental Australia for at least 10 million years and are reminder of our long biological history. They inhabit a variety of environments but prefer those with a dense understorey. Being omnivorous, they feed upon insects, grubs and fruit as well as having an important role in spreading beneficial fungi throughout the bush.
Long-nosed Potoroosare a small rabbit-sized marsupial. They have large hind feet but due to their short tail which normally acts as a counter balance, they cannot hop as well as other kangaroos. They give birth to 1 baby either in early spring or late summer, rearing juveniles in the pouch before they leave and follow the mother for several months, eventually establishing their own territory of up to 2 hectares.
These Potoroos are now classified as Vulnerable, and are found in fragmented populations across south eastern and south western Australia as well as Tasmania. They are threatened by predation by feral cats and foxes as well as habitat loss through logging and livestock grazing. AEFI maintains a wild population within the feral-free environment of Secret Creek.
Also a member of the Rat-kangaroo family, the Rufous Bettong (Aepyprymnus rufescens) is a small, upright kangaroo, with a red or "rufous" silver-red colour on its back. Bettongs are unique of all kangaroos in having a prehensile tail which they use to carry nesting material through their open forest and woodland habitat. The nest is very well camouflaged which enables them to stay hidden from many predators. By creating several of these nests, if threatened Rufous Bettongs are able to dart from one nest to another. To ensure that they do not ‘teach’ predators the location of their nests, once disturbed, Bettongs never return to the nest. They feed upon a variety roots, tubers and fungi with their foraging habits constantly turning over the surface of the soil, giving them the name the ‘gardeners of the bush’.
They have long powerful hind feet and a long tail and can hop at high speeds in typical kangaroo fashion. Standing about 30cm tall, the Rufous Bettong weighs up to 3kg and gives birth to 1 baby up to 3 times per year. Juveniles are independent at around 6 months of age when they leave to establish their own home range of up to 110 hectares.Still common in parts of Queensland, Rufous Bettongs are listed as Extinct in Victoria and Vulnerable in NSW, due to loss of habitat from conversion to grazing lands and predation by foxes and feral cats. AEFI is breeding the Rufous Bettong within the feral-free environment of Secret Creek Sanctuary.
A short, stocky wallaby standing only 40-50cm tall, the Red-necked Pademelon (Thylogale thetis) is a light brown animal with a rounded face and red-tinged neck. Weighing up to 7kg, this robust animal gives birth to one young at a time which are raised in the pouch before following their mother ‘at foot’ until they are about 15 months of age.
The Red-necked Pademelon is still common in some parts of its range although it has disappeared from many areas due to predation from foxes and cats. Some of their habitat is protected though much is found on the verge of the urban environment where they fall prey to domestic dogs and cats. They inhabit the dense forests and rainforests of eastern Australia where they come out to graze on grassy areas at sunset. They predominantly eat grass though may occasionally browse young leaves. Rarely moving more than 100m from shelter, they may occupy home ranges of up to 30 hectares. When threatened, Pademelons will strike the ground hard with their hind feet producing a loud thump, warning others of danger. AEFI is maintaining a population of Red-necked Pademelons at Secret Creek Sanctuary with the intention of releasing surplus animals into larger protected environments in the near future.
Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby
The endangered Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby (Petrogale penicillata) is a small dark brown and reddish kangaroo that is superbly adapted to living in its rocky habitat.They innhabit forested rocky areas that often include sheer cliff-faces or tumbled boulders covered with thick heath-like vegetation, and prefer north-facing slopes so that they are able to bask in the sun during cool days. Once found in areas surrounding ideal rock habitats, increased pressure has seen them restricted to cliffs and inaccessible rocky areas that help to protect them from predators and competitors.Standing up to around 50cm with a long 60cm tail, Brush-tailed Rock-wallabies often have a white blaze on their chest and light coloured cheek stripes. Weighing up to 11kg, this Rock-wallaby often leaves its young hidden in a rock crevice or cave until they are able to move around their precarious habitat at around 12 months of age.
Brush-tailed Rock-wallabies are now found only in isolated and severely fragmented populations. They were once hunted for their skins as well as being perceived as an agricultural pest. With declining numbers, predation from cats and foxes and competition with rabbits and goats has seen their populations reduced to very small numbers. AEFI is successfully breeding Brush-tailed Rock-wallabies at Secret Creek Sanctuary, to benfit public education and also to help us understand more about the species. It is hoped that the knowledge gained by AEFI will assist in other conservation efforts for this beautiful animal.
Several other species are commonly seen in the area. They include animals kept for education within the Sanctuary, such as the coastal emu, brush-tailed possum, swamp wallaby, wallaroo, and red-necked wallaby. Other species free-range through the unfenced adjoining bushland property owned by the Australian Ecosystems Foundation and through to Newnes Plateau Reserve, including wombats, antechinuses, ring-tailed possums and various macropod species such as eastern grey kangaroos and swamp wallabies.