Conservation efforts to save the Tasmanian devil resulted in the deaths of 6,000 penguins.
Tasmanian devils are classified as endangered and their wild populations are decreasing at a concerning rate due to a contagious form of cancer being spread throughout their populations.
Tasmanian devils have been struggling with the cancer, known as devil facial tumor disease, for around 30 years and conservationists have been working to preserve the species through various methods.
Unfortunately, one of the conservation methods used had disastrous results for a different species of animal. According to WIONews, Birdlife Tasmania conducted a survey that showed the devastating effects of the conservation efforts on an island’s penguin population.
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They were hoping to establish a population of Tasmanian devils that were not exposed to DFT, so they introduced the animals to Maria Island, which sits off the coast of Tasmania.
The island happened to be a haven for little penguins, the smallest penguins on Earth. Sadly, they didn’t stand much chance against the Tasmanian devils and made easy prey.
It’s believed the estimated 6,000 Maria Island breeding population of little penguins (Eudyptula minor) have been entirely wiped out.
Tasmanian devils were introduced to the island back in 2012 and it was noted that their introduction was impacting the penguin population. However, it wasn’t until recently that BirdLife Tasmania reported that the newest survey shows the penguin population is completely gone.
In an interview with The Guardian, Dr. Eric Woehler, a staff member of BirdLife Tasmania, said, “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.”
“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,” he added.
What’s worse is now that the penguin population is devastated on that island, it seems Tasmanian devils are targeting other birds that call the land home. Woehler noted, “We’re getting reports of geese trying to nest in trees to avoid devil predation. It’s very clear that the devils have had a catastrophic ecological impact on the bird fauna on Maria Island.”
What should’ve been a celebration for conservationists turned into a heartbreaking outcome. Hopefully people can continue to work and create a solution that would protect the Tasmanian devil populations without devastating other species.Whizzco