Monday, 26 March 2012
Maria Island considered for 'insurance' Devil colony
Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service is considering a proposal to set-up a healthy population of Tasmanian Devils on Maria Island.
The PWS is seeking community comment on the translocation proposal, put forward by the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program.
The Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage, Brian Wightman, said the proposal would initially release up to 50 devils into Maria Island National Park, to establish a wild, free-ranging, disease-free population.
“Our scientists are thinking creative and working extremely hard to help save this precious iconic species,” Mr Wightman said.
“The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program has identified Maria Island as a potential site because of its size, appropriate habitat, and a large suite of prey species for the Tasmanian devil.
“Other benefits include full-time Parks and Wildlife Service staff, and the fact that the only vehicles on the island are PWS ones – reducing the threat of road-kill,” he said.
The Maria Island National Park Plan of Management requires a comprehensive assessment before introducing a new animal to the island - to examine possible environmental, social and economic impacts, along with possible mitigation efforts.
A Development Proposal and Environmental Management Plan will be advertised on Saturday 24 March. It examines the possible impacts of introducing Tasmanian Devils to the Island, and provides an opportunity for community comment on the proposal.
The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program has been carrying out extensive wildlife monitoring and impact assessments, as well as seeking required approvals under State and Commonwealth legislation.
As the land manager of Maria Island, the PWS also has requirements to follow as part of assessing these type of proposals.
“We make these decisions cautiously, and with extensive research, to ensure it’s the right decision for both the Tasmanian Devils and the environment of Maria Island,” Mr Wightman said.
The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program Manager, Andrew Sharman, said the assessment process being undertaken by the Parks and Wildlife Service is the next step in the assessment and approvals process.
“We have been undertaking wildlife monitoring on the island over the last 18 months to ensure we have the best information available for monitoring long-term impacts on the island’s species,” Mr Sharman said.
“An extensive planning process has been also undertaken which has provided scientific and wildlife expert input. The translocation proposal has also been assessed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and has been approved to proceed,” he said.
Mr Sharman said the proposal is another measure for securing the ongoing survival of the Tasmanian devil in the wild.
“Tasmanian devils are facing a major threat to their long term survival in the wild, with the Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) resulting in a population decline of more than 80 per cent since the disease was first recorded in 1996,” Mr Sharman said.
“Despite major advances in knowledge about this disease, the only tool currently available to break the transmission cycle of the disease is to place healthy devils in situations where they will not encounter diseased individuals.
“The aim of translocating Tasmanian devils to Maria Island is to establish a wild, breeding, DFTD-free population to preserve important traits that may be required for future introductions of devils back to the Tasmanian mainland.
“Island translocations such as this one could provide an ecologically and economically sustainable solution to managing insurance populations,” he said.
The Development Proposal and Environmental Management Plan is available at the PWS website at www.parks.tas.gov.au.
Hard copies are available at Service Tasmania shops.
The public comment period closes on 27 April, 2012.