Bringing Devils Back into the Tasmanian Wild
Twenty healthy devils were released back into the wild at Narawntapu National Park (NNP) in northern Tasmania, vaccinated with a potentially game changing vaccine against the Devil Facial Tumour Disease.
This field trial will test the immunisation response against DFTD to help refine and develop more effective vaccination techniques.
Re-wilding through insurance population animals is an important part of the program as it assists in increasing the genetic diversity of suppressed wild populations as well as directly increasing numbers.
The animals released at NNP will join existing devils already living in the park. Save The Tasmanian Devil Program staff will return two weeks after the release, then four weeks, then eight and then 12 weeks later to monitor the devil population.
The 20 devils (11 males and 9 females) come from an Insurance Population housed in Free Range Enclosures (FREs) at Bicheno and Launceston.
This field trial is a tangible step in the journey to bring the devil back into the Tasmanian wild; the next milestone will be to see them start breeding in the wild and thus further ensuring their chances of survival into the future.
This is an important step in ensuring the Tasmanian devil’s long term survival in the wild. This program is about re-establishing and boosting wild populations in Tasmania.
Significant advances in the Insurance Population and work to protect isolated devil populations have enabled the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program (STDP) to develop and commence this next step in the species' conservation.
It is part of the Wild Devil Recovery Project that places emphasis on population monitoring, field research and testing of possible vaccines and immunisation techniques, resulting in the implementation of work to manage wild devil populations.
The Tasmanian devil, as a species, is now more secure than it has been at any time during the past decade due to the outstanding success of the Insurance Population program.
However the devil continues to face serious ongoing challenges to its survival in the wild. That is why the Tasmanian Government is redoubling its efforts in facilitating further research into the Devil Facial Tumour Disease as well toward the development of effective vaccines.
The release of the healthy devils is an important new phase in ongoing efforts to save this iconic species, the Tasmanian devil, in the wild. We owe it to this precious and iconic species to secure a strong, disease free future in its natural setting, where it belongs – in the wild.
The Wild Devil Recovery Project is a joint initiative between the Menzies Institute for Medical Research and the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program (STDP) and is supported through funding from the Tasmanian Government.
Feral cats eradicated from Tasman Island
Tasman Island’s sea birds are on the road to recovery following the success of a program to eradicate feral cats and restore the island’s natural values.
The Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage, Brian Wightman, said a final check of the island last week by staff from the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment found no sign of feral cats and the island has been declared free from feral cats.
The program to eradicate cats from the 120 hectare island, which forms part of the Tasman National Park, began in 2008. Detailed research and planning was undertaken and an eradication plan was produced in 2009.
Tasman Island is home to Australia’s largest colony of fairy prions and it was estimated that the island’s feral cat population of about 50 was killing approximately 50,000 fairy prions and other sea birds each year.
Mr Wightman said the project is a positive model for future community-supported conservation programs.
“Tourism operator Rob Pennicott of Pennicott Wilderness Journeys strongly supported the project through a donation of $65,000 to the Wildcare Tasmanian Coast Conservation Fund,” he said.
“This was a significant part of the project’s total cost of $250,000 and Rob’s enthusiastic support has been greatly appreciated.
“Rob’s contribution to island and coastal protection is outstanding. It is an excellent example of how government, business and the community can work together to achieve significant conservation outcomes.
“The ongoing commitment of Rob to the protection and promotion of Tasmania’s fantastic marine and coastal environment is a legacy of which he, his family and his staff can be justifiably proud.”
Baiting of the island was undertaken on 3 May 2010, followed by trapping and hunting. The last of the island’s feral cats was trapped on 15 May 2010. Since then, teams have visited the island monthly, checking the island for any sign of cats using remote cameras, cat-detecting dogs and scouring the island’s plateau and steep boulder fields for cat signs such as fresh bird kills, scats or prints.
Mr Pennicott said that both he, and the staff from Pennicott Wilderness Journeys, felt very excited and proud to be able to be a part of this project.
“I love the thought that long after I’m gone the birds of Tasman Island will be able to breed and live uninhibited, something that future Pennicott generations can be proud of,” Mr Pennicott said.
“Congratulations also to Tasmania Parks and Wildlife staff working on the project for a job well done”
Mr Wightman said that departmental staff are confident that after 12 months they have covered the spectacular island very thoroughly and that no cats remain.
“We now expect to see a dramatic increase in sea bird numbers and the diversity of species found on the island as a result of the cats’ removal,” he said.
“Parks and Wildlife Service staff and Resource Management and Conservation Division staff from the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment have learnt a great deal about eradication from this and the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project currently under way. They are investigating the possibilities of future island eradication projects in Tasmania.”
Tasman Island with Cape Pillar behind.
Wildlife biologist Sue Robinson with Clay, one of two cat-detecting dogs that have been part of the cat eradication project.