Jakarta, Indonesia (AP) — Tasmanian devil, a carnivorous marsupial, gained the fame of animal cartoons. It was the first time I returned to mainland Australia in about 3,000 years.
“It’s a really moving moment to see those demons released into wild landscapes,” said Liz Gabriel, director of conservation group Aussie Ark, who led the release effort in partnership with other conservation groups.
The 11 most recently released demons begin exploring new homes after being released from round white cages at the nearly 1,000-acre Barrington Tops Wildlife Sanctuary in New South Wales, about 190 kilometers (120 miles) north of Sydney. I did.
The Tasmanian demon, once called Sarcophilus satanicus or “Satanic flesh lover”, was extinct in mainland Australia before the arrival of Europeans. Scientists believe demons have migrated to today’s Tasmania due to the introduction of carnivorous dingoes, a surge in indigenous populations, and the destructive dry season caused by long-term El Niños, said Mena Jones, an ecologist at the University of Tasmania.
“I wouldn’t have caused extinction by just one of these three factors, but these three factors combined would have made the devil extinct on the mainland,” she said.
Devils have been protected in Australia since 1941, and conservationists have been working to strengthen populations for years, citing their importance as the best predators to curb exotic species such as foxes and wild cats, and again protect small species and biodiversity.
One of the biggest blows to conservation efforts was in the 1990s a contagious cancer called Devil Facial Tumor Disease, which passes between the demons during mating and causes large tumors that prevent them from eating. The population has decreased from about 140,000 to a few. To 20,000.
In response, researchers set up a cancer-free, devil’s insured population on a wild-type fence in the Australian island of Tasmania. However, the July and September releases are the first to be released on the mainland of protected wildlife landscapes of squat mammals that have tested negative for infectious cancer.
Gabriel said Aussie Ark has hopes that the devil will ultimately aim to live in unprotected areas of mainland Australia, and that the devil will help control the cat and fox populations.
Some experts question whether the adoption can have the expected impact.
Australian environmentalist Nick Mooney, who has worked with Tasmanian demons for about 40 years, says wild cats will go back to find prey rather than rely on carrion to compete with the demons.
“There is an argument that if you put the devil in a situation that prevents the cleaning of other predators, animals like cats and foxes simply start hunting. You can actually create a conservation problem that didn’t exist before,” Mooney said.
There is also a problem of reputation. Devils tend to eat small mammals, but are known to eat the carcasses of cows and sheep, and potentially bother farmers.
“When we make a big intervention like this, we need the consent of the community, especially those affected by the community. “I need a consultation.”
As of now, the demons released this year and the ones expected to be released in the future will not fall into the wild yet. Instead, they will receive supplemental prey and will be monitored by remote cameras, and some demons have tagged them with GPS trackers to learn more how to adapt in their new environment.
“We dream of more sanctuaries with demons and to protect those species, we increase the number of species and the animals in our surroundings, too,” she said. “This is just the beginning.”
The Associated Press Health and Science Department is supported by the Department of Science Education at Howard Hughes Medical Institute. AP is solely responsible for all content.