Devils adapting to new island home
Fifteen Tasmanian devils are settling into their new environment on Maria Island after being released yesterday.
The Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage, Brian Wightman, said the release of the disease-free devils on the island refuge marked a very significant milestone in the conservation of the species.
"Initial reports from wildlife biologists managing the release are very positive," Mr Wightman said.
"The devils have left the three separate release sites and all is well.
"Preparing and transferring the devils to Maria Island was a major operation and the release team is very pleased with the way things went," he said.
Mr Wightman said the project required extensive planning, including early risk assessments and regulatory approvals, by the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, as well as cooperation from the Parks and Wildlife Service, various divisions of the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, and the Zoo and Aquarium Association which identified genetically suitable animals.
The aim of relocating the devils to Maria Island is to establish a self-sustaining population of healthy wild devils in a safe haven where they are protected from interaction with the deadly facial tumour disease. It is planned to release approximately 50 devils over the next two years.
Save the Tasmanian Devil Program Director Howel Williams said the devils and their impact on the overall ecology of Maria Island would be monitored and assessed over coming weeks.
"If all goes according to plan, the next consignment of devils will be released next year," Dr Williams said.
"All animals chosen for this translocation program are assessed for appropriate behavioural traits before being considered for this founding population on the island.
"They are health checked and screened for diseases and pathogens," he said.
The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program is a joint initiative between the Australian and Tasmanian Governments to ensure the long term survival of the Tasmanian devil in the wild. The Australian Government has committed $10 million over five years to the program.
Members of the Aboriginal community conducted a welcome to country ceremony, including the traditional smoking ceremony, to welcome the devils to Maria Island. Devil team member Phil Wise (left) with one of the devils in its trap.
After arriving safely on the ferry the devils were loaded for the last part of the trip to the release sites on the island.
A hide was set up to allow media, including a documentary film crew, to film the devils' release with the minimum disruption to the animals.
DPIPWE photographer and editor of Tasmania Regions, was on hand to document the release.
The traps being distributed at the release site.
And it's into the wild for this fortunate devil.