Tasmanian devils return to mainland Australia 3,000 years later

Tasmanian devils return to mainland Australia 3,000 years later

An ambitious program to protect the species has released 26 of these carnivorous mammals in a sanctuary near Sydney

Tasmanian devils return to mainland Australia 3,000 years later

Tasmanian devils , marsupials disappeared 3,000 years ago from mainland Australia, have recently been reintroduced to the vast island. The Aussie Ark association, in an ambitious program to protect the species, revealed on Monday that 26 of these carnivorous mammals were released in a 400-hectare sanctuary in Barrington Tops, three and a half hours north of Sydney (southeast).

Aussie Ark President Tim Faulkner explained that this “landmark” operation, carried out in July and September, is the first stage of an ex situ conservation program to create a preserved population, bearing in mind that, on the island of Tasmania , the devil suffers from contagious cancer.

After 16 years of work, which have led to the creation of the largest devil breeding program in mainland Australia, it is “incredible” to have come this far, according to Faulkner. “It's like a dream,” he assured. “The largest indigenous predator on the continent is the spotted-tailed tiger cat that weighs a little over a kilo. Bringing an animal of this size is something extraordinary.”

The devil, who can weigh up to eight kilos, usually hunts other indigenous animals or feeds on the remains of dead animals.

Transmissible facial tumor

Sarcophilus harrisii is not dangerous to humans or livestock but defends itself if attacked and can cause serious injury. This nocturnal marsupial with dark or black fur, which gives off a strong odor when nervous, has been the victim since 1996 of a disease , the transmissible facial tumor of the Tasmanian devil (DFTD), which ends in death in almost 100% of cases .

To date, the disease has wiped out 85% of its population, and has placed this species in danger of extinction. This contagious cancer (cancer normally is not, except in certain animal species) is transmitted through bites between devils, very aggressive and with a strong jaw, when they mate or fight. Animals starve to death when the tumor reaches their mouths and prevents them from eating.

It is estimated that there are currently 25,000 devils in nature, compared to 150,000 before the outbreak of the disease. In mainland Australia, however, these animals disappeared 3,000 years ago, apparently wiped out by dingoes, a subspecies of native wolves.

The program seeks to create a “reserved population” against a disease so far incurable, as well as to restore the native natural environment.

Protected sanctuary

“Devils are one of the only natural solutions to control populations of foxes and cats, responsible for the vast majority of the 40 extinctions of mammalian species in Australia,” Faulkner said. “The stakes are higher than the Tasmanian devil.”

This project recalls that of the reintroduction of the wolf in the American park of Yellowstone in the 1990s, which, according to experts, had a series of positive effects: regeneration of shrubs on the banks of rivers, stabilization of water courses, the return of birds and beavers …

The Aussie Ark selected the animals for their reproductive capabilities and released them in a protected sanctuary, to avoid various threats, such as disease or car traffic.

“We have introduced young and healthy specimens now, giving them six months to find their marks, establish their territory and prepare for the breeding season” that takes place in February, Faulkner said. “The land was chosen because it looks like an area in Tasmania.”

The devil is one of the seven species that Aussie Ark plans to reintroduce to the continent in the coming years, as are the tiger cat, the peramelid (or bandicut) and the petrogale (or rock wallaby).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *