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The Plight of the Devils: Tasmanian Devils migrated to Tasmania, an island off the southern coast of Australia, over 3,000 years ago, when a perfect storm of conditions drove them off the mainland. Despite escaping extinction on the mainland, a transmissible form of facial cancer has ravaged the Devil population, threatening it with extinction. The absence of Devils on the mainland has inadvertently led to the unchecked growth of invasive species such as rabbits, feral cats, and foxes. Conservationists hope that reintroducing the Devil to the wilds of Australia will not only balance ecosystems but also save the species.
A Troubled History: Scientists believe that Tasmanian Devils were driven out of mainland Australia before the advent of European settlers. Even so, surges in the human population, combined with a historical drought and being hunted by dingoes, created a set of conditions that threatened the species with total extinction. Menna Jones, and ecologist at the University of Tasmania, said, “I think any one of those three factors alone probably wouldn’t have caused extinction, but the three of them together likely caused the devil to become extinct on the mainland.”
Still Facing Doubt: Some conservationists are doubtful that the return of the Tasmanian Devil will help ecosystems. Nick Mooney, who has worked with Tasmanian devils for 40 years, worries that invasive species like feral cats will adapt to find new sources of food to avoid competing with Devils. “You could actually make a conservation problem where it didn’t exist before,” he said. Others believe that while Devils may quell fox and cat populations, they won’t have much effect on rampant rabbit populations. Jones also acknowledges potential consequences of the program, explaining that Devils are known to feast on the carcasses of farm animals, and may become a nuisance to farming communities, “When you do big interventions like this, there needs to be buy-in from the community.”
Gabriel remains hopeful for her organization’s mission, “We dream of many more sanctuaries with devils in them and really growing the numbers of the species to protect that species, but also the animals in the environment around them,” she said. “This is just the beginning.”
by Amy Lupica, ODP Contributing Writer Sharks have killed seven people in Australia in 2020, the most since 1934, and scientists believe climate change might be responsible. According to the Taronga Conservation Society Australia, for the past 50 years, the average number of yearly shark attack fatalities was one. Despite the total number of shark […]
Human activity has nearly doubled the rate of natural disasters in the last quarter-century. And as the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) explained in a new report out this week: While many natural disasters cause great financial hardship and can tragically result in loss of human life, animals are often overlooked in the chaos. […]
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