In 2012, 28 Tasmanian Devils were sent to Maria Island in eastern Tasmania to establish a population free of facial tumors that have threatened the marsupial’s existence for more than two decades. Along with reintroductions done in other Australian locations, the aim of preserving the species also indicated that it would work on the island. But the presence of devils had consequences for other animals as well, as did a group of the world’s smallest penguins.
According to the Birdlife Tasmania organization, 3,000 pairs of blue penguins disappeared from the island following the re-entry of the Tasmanian giant, an action that had “a devastating effect on one or more species of bird”. For Eric Wohler, a researcher at the institution, the result was not unexpected, as reports had already suggested possible negative effects on colonies of penguins and paradelus, another type of seabird that had disappeared.
“It is very clear that the Devils have had a devastating ecological impact on the birdlife on Maria Island,” Wohler explained. BBC. “Losing 3,000 pairs of penguins from an island that is a national park and should have originally been a refuge for this species is a huge blow.”
The movement in the island’s animal life is mainly due to the predatory behavior of the Tasmanian devil, which also helps control feral cats and foxes in some places, such as mainland Australia.
In 2016, the population of marsupials living on the island was at least 100 specimens. For Wohler, the removal of animals from there, today, would not be a major risk to the conservation of the species, which is considered in danger of extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN, its abbreviation in English). Other initiatives have shown that it is possible to conserve the species in more sustainable ways, such as the recent birth of chicks in the Australian continent’s wilderness after 3,000 years.