PLANS are underway to reintroduce the Tasmanian devil to mainland Australia. The plan includes releasing a group of disease free devils into Wilsons Promontory as an ‘insurance policy’. Reported on ABC Gippsland and The Age, the plan, which was purportedly developed by Parks Victoria, could stem the facial tumour disease which has decimated the Tasmanian population. The devils to be released in Victoria would be bred from a captive population that has no sign of the disease.
Associate Professor John Rodger from the school of Environmental and Life Sciences at the University of Newcastle said the reintroduction plan had “been on the table for years”. “Interests in Victoria were concerned about the long-time sustainable management of Wilsons Prom and other parks and reserves and the fact that there were missing components from the ecosystem which had been lost, some of them from European settlement and some even before that we could potentially bring back,” he told ABC Gippsland. “That’s particularly carnivores like the Tasmanian devil but also the eastern quoll and this is a move really around the world now, to try and find natural systems and restore natural systems that have got lost over the last few hundred years.” At this stage the plan is only in its beginning with an application for Federal Government funding for a Wildlife Biodiversity Cooperative Research Centre project to return areas to pre-settlement ecosystems.
The funding application is for $40 million over eight years and includes projects to reintroduce the eastern quoll, the pademelon (small wallaby), eastern barred bandicoot and Tasmanian bettong. Preliminary work on the plan would include a scoping study, which would include building community awareness and investigating trial releases, which could occur by 2015. Wilsons Promontory was mooted as a release site as populations could be contained, however studying the success or failure of the proposal could be difficult given the difficult terrain of The Prom. It is expected nearby farmers would also oppose the plan, with Tasmanian devils linked to lamb attacks.