Story at a glance

  • Tasmanian devils introduced to Maria Island have eradicated the population of little penguins.
  • Tasmanian devils were introduced to the national park between 2012 and 2013 in an attempt to protect a part of the devil population from devil facial tumor disease, a contagious facial cancer.
  • The devils have since killed 3,000 breeding pairs of penguins on the island.

Tasmanian devils introduced to an island to protect their own population are now decimating the island’s population of little penguins.

Twenty-eight Tasmanian devils were introduced to Maria Island, an Australian National Park that can only be reached by boat or plane, between 2012 and 2013 by the Save the Tasmanian Devil government program. The relocation was an attempt to protect a part of the devil population from devil facial tumor disease, a contagious facial cancer that was affecting 90 percent of the population. 

The amount of devils introduced to the island has quickly grown from 28 to nearly 100, a success for the program, but the animals have been preying upon the island’s little penguins in the process.

Close to a decade ago, Maria Island had about 3,000 breeding pairs of little penguins. Now, they’re gone.


READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA

MICHAEL JORDAN CATCHES DOLPHINFISH IN $3.4M FISHING TOURNAMENT

MAN-SIZED HALIBUT REELED IN IN THE NORTH SEA

WOMAN PUNCHES CROCODILE TO SAVE HER TWIN SISTER

NEW STUDY NAMES THE 10 SMELLIEST STATES IN THE US

CICADAS OVERRUN WHITE HOUSE PRESS PLANE


“Every time humans have deliberately or accidentally introduced mammals to oceanic islands, there’s always been the same outcome … a catastrophic impact on one or more bird species,” Eric Woehler, the convenor of BirdLife Tasmania, told The Guardian. “Losing 3,000 pairs of penguins from an island that is a national park that should be a refuge for this species basically is a major blow.”

But the little penguins aren’t the only population that has been affected. Research has shown that the short-tailed shearwater, wombats and possums have all become prey to the Tasmanian devils.

Though Woehler acknowledges that at the time the introduction of the Tasmanian devil to the island was logical — more was learned about the disease the animal was facing, and its population started to bounce back, even in Australia — it might be time to relocate them from the island.

“You have a range of insurance populations around Tasmania and on the mainland of Australia [now],” Woehler said. “I would argue that the removal of one insurance population will not have any adverse consequences for the devil.”


America is changing faster than ever! Add Changing America to your Facebook or Twitter feed to stay on top of the news.


The government has not signaled that it would be relocating the devils any time soon but told The Guardian that it was constantly monitoring the program and its effects.

“All effective conservation programs are adaptive and the STDP will continue to evolve in line with new knowledge in science and emerging priorities,” a spokesperson for the Save the Tasmanian Devil program said. “This also applies to Maria Island, where active monitoring and management occurs, and Maria Island remains an important part of the broader devil program to help restore and maintain an enduring and resilient wild devil population in Tasmania.”


READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA

FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 3,000 YEARS, TASMANIAN DEVILS HAVE BEEN BORN ON AUSTRALIAN MAINLAND

‘EXTINCT’ GIANT TORTOISE FOUND IN GALAPAGOS

CONSERVATIONISTS THRILLED AS ‘EXTINCT’ WILD RIVER PREDATOR POPS UP

PANDEMIC PUPPIES RETURNED TO SHELTERS AS COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS LIFT

1,000 FERAL CATS RELEASED ONTO CHICAGO STREETS TO TACKLE RAT EXPLOSION

Published on Jun 21, 2021