Significance to humans

Many species of native marsupials had a place in the dream-time histories of aboriginal peoples. Aboriginal histories have indeed revealed ecological information on species that became extinct prior to European documentation. However, except for the very distinctive animals, aboriginal peoples did not necessarily distinguish between species of the smaller Australian mammals. The larger, more distinctive species were held in reverence, with dreaming stories, totemic status, and ritual treatment that sometimes precluded consumption. Aboriginal peoples probably hunted and ate all species of carnivorous marsupials depending on abundance.

Commercial exploitation of carnivorous marsupials for furs or skins has not been recorded, apart from early collecting for museums, despite the beautiful coat patterns of some of the larger species. Perhaps the lack of intensely cold climates and winter pelts contributed to this lack of economic interest. Some species may confer economic benefits in their dietary proclivity for agricultural and forest insect pests and their abilities in dispatching rodents. The diet of eastern quolls living on farmland is dominated at times of the year by pest pasture grubs (corbie grubs and wire worms).

Economic impacts of carnivorous marsupials are restricted to the larger species. The predatory abilities of carnivorous marsupials in tackling large prey (relative to their body size) means that any species larger than 4.8 oz (150 g) can take on domestic poultry. Inadequately housed poultry may be targeted by phascogales, quolls, and devils, particularly at night and especially by young animals and females feeding young. Lambs in the first 24 hours of life are vulnerable to Tas-

manian devils. Lambs from multiple births and certain breeds of sheep are more vulnerable. Fencing is not difficult (strong mesh wire, no holes, footings 6 in [15 cm] below ground), but education and attitudinal change is a major hindrance. Thylacines would have killed sheep of all sizes. Persecution on individual properties can have a significant impact on local populations of devils in particular and certainly did on thylacines.

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