Chagi and her partner spent a weekend on a quoll reserve in Northern NSW learning about mainland Australia’s largest carnivorous marsupial.


As an ecologist, I’d always wanted to see a Spotted-tail quoll in the wild. I’ve dragged my partner, Kieran, out on countless spotlighting trips well past our bedtime of 9pm to find this elusive critter. So naturally, Quoll Headquarters seemed like the perfect place for us to volunteer where we could actively help this endangered animal (and selfishly catch a glimpse of them).


Please note! Wild animals should never be touched, picked up, fed or approached by someone unless they are a trained wildlife handler. Please observe and enjoy wild animals from a safe and undisturbing distance.

Quoll Headquarters – A Privately-Owned Nature Sancturary for The Public

Quoll Headquarters is a 160ha nature sanctuary surrounded by a 5km long fence that allows native flora and fauna to restore and thrive. It aims to ‘protect, preserve and create a future for Australia’s threatened species whilst providing an educational facility for the public to understand, appreciate and learn about our unique wildlife’.

Located near the granite boulder fields of Tenterfield, NSW, the area supports ideal habitat for the south-eastern subspecies of Spotted-tail quoll (Dasyurus maculatus maculatus).


The founder of Quoll Headquarters, Steve Haslam with a Spotted-tail quoll


Spotted-tail quolls are nocturnal marsupials that prefer a loner lifestyle. They’re the largest carnivorous marsupial on mainland Australia, weighing up to 7kg. But they didn’t always win the big boy trophy, as habitat destruction and the introduction of feral predators have caused 34 native mammals to go extinct since European invasion in 1788.

There’s an urgent need to protect the few remaining natural habitats for this endangered species. And that’s exactly what Quoll Headquarters is doing.

Welcome to Quoll Headquarters

Kieran and I decided to spend a weekend volunteering at Quoll Headquarters. We were greeted by Steve Haslam, the incredible conservationist who founded the reserve, and his two happy dogs, Rotor and Sprocket, at Steve’s home in Tenterfield.

After meeting his partner, Bianca, and cooing over the Red-necked wallaby joey they were fostering, we convoyed to the wildlife reserve outside of town. As we wound through lush remnant forests, the air became cleaner and the reception signal, weaker.


A remote part of the reserve


The entrance of the reserve is barricaded with a lock on the 1.8m high fence.

‘The number 1 rule here is to always keep the gate closed and locked,’ Steve said.

The fence is designed in a way that allows wild quolls to come and go as they please while keeping feral dogs and pigs out. We drove through tall, eucalypt forests where the natural environment had been restored after the previous owner had used it for cattle grazing.

Steve had camped at the base of the granite monoliths on the property in 2000 and was lucky enough to see his first wild Spotted-tail quoll.

‘After pursuing this animal for 16 years the search was over. I quietly walked back down the big rock, packed up my camp, drove straight to the graziers house and purchased the property on the spot. Quoll Headquarters was born.’


– Steve Haslam

It was late afternoon when we arrived so Steve told us to relax and have a wander around the area. The accommodation on site is a demountable that Steve and Bianca had designed with an architecture friend of theirs.

It’d been their dream to live on the property amongst the wild quolls, but a megafire ripped through in 2019 which changed their focus for the land. Offering the nature reserve to the public allows for students, photography enthusiasts, and keen-as-bean volunteers to study and appreciate this conservation project.


Accommodation at Quoll Headquarters

Time to Get to Work!

After chugging down some barista machine coffee the morning after, we rolled up our sleeves to ready ourselves for manual labour.

Our first job was to run a perimeter check on the fence to see if any damage had been done. The fence, after all, made the area a safe haven for native animals, so it was the most important job of the day.

We jumped in the ATV and drove until we found evidence of our first culprit. Something small had tried to dig its way out. If the hole wasn’t covered, feral animals had the chance of sneaking in. We flattened the soil as much as we could before piling it up with large rocks.


Checking fences


Once that was done, Steve designated Kieran to man the John Deere lawn mower while I helped him plant trees. Quoll Headquarters is already used as a safe release site for local wildlife carers to allow sick or injured wildlife a chance at healing without the threat of feral predators. To add to this, Steve has a vision to create a soft-release enclosure specifically, for koalas and kangaroos, which is where the tree planting comes in.

We got our hands dirty planting rows of baby eucalypts endemic to the Northern Tablelands, which will be used for the release site. Next to this, a solar-powered Interpretation Centre is planned for the future for private tours and school groups to learn about the reserve.

We needed all hands on deck for the next job – fixing the fence where a tree branch had fallen on it. This section had to be cut out and replaced. Easier said than done as we spent the whole day attaching the new fence to the old. But it felt rewarding hardening up our soft city hands. Steve enthusiastically answered all the questions Kieran and I had about the reserve while we were working, as it’s our dream to own a block of land for conservation one day.


All smiles!

After Dark Quoll Spotting

Absolutely knackered by the day’s work, we lounged in front of the outdoor firepit with a local wine watching the possums appear as the sun dipped away. As soon as it was dark, we strapped our head torches on to search for quolls. After a couple of hours of spotlighting with no luck, we decided to call it a night and hoped that the remote camera traps we baited with chicken meat that afternoon would catch a photo of the elusive critters.


Spotted-tail quoll


How lucky were we, to catch not one but two quolls on the camera traps! The timestamp on one trap said that the cheeky bugger was out just 10 minutes before we woke up to check the traps.

While I didn’t get to meet a quoll in person, I was satisfied knowing they were happily roaming in the safe haven that is Quoll Headquarters. It’ll be a conservation sanctuary of significance for generations to come.