World News – US – Tasmanian demons return to mainland Australia for first time in 3,000 years


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The Tasmanian demons, known for their fierce temper, have been plagued by contagious facial cancer over the past decades

It’s been 3,000 years since the hoarse cry of the Tasmanian devil sounded in the forests of mainland Australia.But now, thanks to a relentless reintroduction effort, 26 of those tiny, threatened terrors have returned

No bigger than a pocket dog, these marsupials are famous for their ferocity and powerful jaws, which can smash large carcasses to smithereens in minutes.But in the 1990s the species was hit by a contagious and fatal oral cancer, dropping its only remaining wild population in the Australian island state of Tasmania to just 25,000 animals

It is not known why the species became extinct from Australia millennia ago, but this is likely due to human actions: when the first hunters killed most of the continent’s megafauna, demons did not ‘had nothing left to eat

As scavengers, demons play a crucial role in maintaining a balanced and healthy ecosystem – which is why scientists have tried so hard to bring them back

« We’ve been working for over a decade to get to this point, » says Tim Faulkner, president of AussieArk, a species recovery organization The group works closely with nonprofits Global Wildlife Conservation and WildArk to orchestrate the release of captive-bred animals in a thousand-acre fenced area called Barrington Wildlife Sanctuary, just north of Barrington Tops National Park in eastern Australia

Even still, reintroducing animals is a questionable affair, so scientists launched a phased launch of 15 demons in March of this year The team used radio collars to check for released demons, as well as to get out of kangaroo carcasses for food as the animals adjust to their new home After all the demons showed signs of prosperity, scientists felt optimistic enough to release 11 more individuals on September 10 – and now they are mostly alone

« They’re free. They’re over there », says Faulkner « We have some basic ways to watch them But basically now it’s up to the demons to do what they do »

To prepare for the arrival of the demons, Faulkner’s team fenced off much of the protected eucalyptus forest, cleared out invasive plants, removed leaf litter that can lead to forest fires, and used a deadly cruelty-free control to eliminate red foxes and feral cats —Introduced predators that devastated the continent’s small mammal populations (Read how the cat-sized marsupial quolls were reintroduced to mainland Australia)

Wild cats don’t prey on demons – in fact, it’s the felines that might need to be concerned

« The presence of demons in the landscape seems to put cats off a bit, » says David Hamilton, a devil expert and research assistant at the University of Tasmania who was not involved in the Demons Don’t Eat reintroduction project usually no cats, but instead force them to hunt at dusk and dawn to avoid clashes with nocturnal demons

It may sound minor, but this small change in behavior can actually protect native nocturnal species, like bandicoots, several of which are considered endangered in Australia Interestingly, bandicoot populations are increasing where demons are most common. important than cats, says Hamilton (Learn more about invasive species and their impact on the environment)

This is exactly what Faulkner and others hope the Tasmanian demons will do in Australia: stabilize the continent’s ecosystems against invaders

But it’s « a great unknown » what will happen when demons face red foxes, which are bigger than cats and more equal in size to demons, Hamilton warns

There is also the question of whether the reintroduction of demons will have unintended consequences for other susceptible species.For example, in 2012, an introduced population of demons on Maria Island, off the coast of Tasmania, has leads to the disappearance of several colonies of short-tailed shearwaters

Wildcats and common brush-tailed possums, both not native to the island, were already feeding on seabirds, and although demons began to suppress these predators, they also began to eat seabird eggs and hatchlings

“Theoretically they shouldn’t have a negative impact [in Australia],” says Hamilton “But you have to think of the whole ecosystem when you do things like this, and that’s a great demand « 

This is why it is particularly important that the reintroduction begins in a large but fenced environment, he adds

Assuming all goes well, the triad of conservation organizations plan to release 40 more demons in the same protected forest over the next two years and they will have company

As the fierce Tasmanian Devil battles a deadly cancer epidemic, Australian biologists are raising a viable, cancer-free population in captivity

Since the removal of cats and foxes, Faulkner’s team have also started releasing other native species at risk into the same habitat, including Parma wallabies, long-nosed bandicoots, long-nosed potoroos, nose and red bettongs (Discover the silent decline of the platypus, Australia’s beloved curiosity)

AussieArk plans to release even more of these species over the next six months, in addition to eastern quolls, brush-tailed rock wallabies, and southern brown bandicoots.

These tiny mammals are essential for keeping their environment clean and healthy by dispersing seeds and reducing the intensity of forest fires by digging up leaf litter and speeding up its decomposition

“It really comes down to those little earthly ecosystem engineers who turn the leaf litter,” says Faulkner “A bandicoot turns the [weight] of an elephant’s soil every year. A bandicoot”

If the experiments are successful, there are 370,000 acres of protected land nearby in which reintroductions could expand, he adds

“I really believe that over time we will see the devil become a normal part of mainland Australia,” says Faulkner “It was here 3,000 years ago You know it’s a blink of an eye ‘ecological eye « 

Tasmanian Devil, Mainland Australia, Tasmania, Chris Hemsworth, Marsupials

World News – US – Tasmanian demons return to mainland Australia for the first time in 3000 years


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