Rabbits vs. quolls – an overlooked chapter in our protein history

Every so often I’ll be looking at specifically at protein sources, despite (or because of?) being a plant person through and through. This is not an in depth article on using rabbits as a protein source, though I should do one simply because they’re so common in many places and they can be reared in the urban environment comparatively easily. But it is a quick look at how we didn’t just introduce rabbits once to this country. I found a paper from the Australian Journal of Zoology (published just over a week ago) that lays out three hundred records of attempts to import, sell, transport and release rabbits, and it’s fascinating.

The paper lays out the attempts to introduce rabbits next to circumstantial evidence of the local quoll population as evidenced in newspapers, letters and other contemporaneous sources. And you can see that we once had quite a thriving population of quolls who were really quite happy for us to bring them a new food source. I love quolls, they’re fantastic animals and the local West Australian Chuditch is one of my favourite animals (although I admit I have at least a hundred favourites -grin-). I like imagining early townsmen and women going out into their back yard in the morning to check on their rabbit hutch and cursing the quolls at the top of their lungs. The authors of the paper, David Peacock of Biosecurity SAand Ian Abbott of W.A.’s Department of Environment and Conservation, point out that this explains why rabbits were successfully introduced on islands but not on the mainland for a long time, and also that it means we eventually had multiple points from which rabbits were established and not just one in Geelong.

Online portal and reference for the paper:

Peacock, David and Abbott, Ian; The role of quoll (Dasyurus) predation in the outcome of pre-1900 introductions of rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) to the mainland and islands of Australia; Australian Journal of Zoology 61(3) 206-280, 3 September 2013

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