University of Wollongong researchers have used remote cameras to discover a small but thriving population of the endangered tiger quoll in the Watagan Mountains near Cessnock.
Researchers Dr Katarina Mikac, Dr Chris McLean and Angelica Varhammar will next month begin a study of the tiger, or spotted, quoll - as well as other native marsupials - in the Barren Grounds Nature Reserve near Jamberoo.
The scientists used remote motion-activated cameras in the Watagan Mountains study, which is ongoing and aims to provide detailed information on tiger quoll numbers and their specific locations. It is hoped the information will assist in ensuring the tiger quolls' survival.
"So far, we have identified nine individual quolls," Dr Mikac said.
"We are now trying to discover what their preferred habitat is. Once we have established that, we can start protecting that habitat, and hopefully numbers will increase."
The research team was also able to monitor the behaviour of other native and introduced animals during the study.
Dr Mikac said other predators such as dingoes, feral cats and wild dogs were captured on camera, although there had been no sign of foxes near the quoll population.
Conversely, in other areas where there were foxes, there were no quolls.
"The tiger quoll is an apex predator," she said. "If quolls disappear, there will be a flow-on effect down the food chain that would be devastating for Australia's ecosystem."
According to a recent report, The Action Plan for Australian Mammals, more than 10 per cent of Australian native animals have become extinct since European settlement.
Report co-author John Woinarski, from Charles Darwin University, estimated a further 20 per cent were considered endangered.
One facing extinction was the tiger quoll, one of Australia's largest mainland predators. Its numbers have drastically reduced due to urbanisation and the introduction of non-native predators.