The Tasmanian devil has spent the last 30 years or so, and their population has reached the brink of spreading a contagious form of cancer known as the devil’s facial tumor disease (DFT). Multiple approaches have been taken to conserve and preserve the species, but according to Winnews, a recent report from Birdlife Tasmania revealed that one strategy has caused catastrophic events for completely different animals. The devils of Tasmania were introduced to Maria Island, a small settlement east of Tasmania, in an attempt to establish a conservative population geographically isolated from the DFT.
The tiny island was home to little penguins (Eudiputula juveniles), land-dwellers and bird nests, the smallest penguins in the world. Unfortunately, their small size and limited defenses seem to have made it easy for newcomers to their island, and it is thought that Tasmanian devils have now wiped out the breeding population of about 6,000 small penguins. Anxious trends have been observed since the devils were introduced in 2012, but a recent study by BirdLife Tasmania found that penguins have now completely disappeared.
Dr. Eric Wahler, convener of BirdLife Tasmania, told the Guardian: “Every time people intentionally or accidentally introduce mammals to ocean islands, the same thing happens … there is a catastrophic effect on one or more bird species.” Eric Wahler said. “The loss of 3,000 pairs of penguins from an island national park that was originally a refuge for this species is a big shock.” The little penguins are found off the coast of Australia and New Zealand, two regions of the world that are uncomfortably familiar with the destructive potential of conventional species, countries that have land-dwelling bird habitats.
In New Zealand, approaches were deliberately introduced in 1837 in the hope of establishing a fur trade, but despite the innocent hope their presence could enrich the country’s biodiversity, instead it focuses on native species, including the iconic kiwi, and competes with older ones, including little penguins. In the case of Tasmanian devils, the threat posed by these animals to little penguins is worse than that of pumpkins and domestic cats, who are also partial to the annoyance of these little birds.
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