Tasmanian Devils to be introduced in Australian mainland

The Victorian Government is considering re-introducing Tasmanian Devils to Wilsons Promontory National Park in South Gippsland, Australia. The attempt is being done to re-establish an ecological balance between feral cats, foxes and native wildlife.

Ryan Smith, Victorian Minister for Environment and Climate Change, has told Radio National's Background Briefing program that a risk assessment has already been completed and a proposal is being prepared for the Government.

Feral cats have been in Australia for more than 100 years. But lack of large predators on the Australian mainland has allowed feral cats and foxes to destroy native wildlife.

Mammalogist Professor Tim Flannery said their devastating impact on Australian mammal populations has grown since recent pest management programs have decreased fox populations.

The Action Plan for Australian Mammals, released in June by the CSIRO, listed 15 million feral cats in Australia as the number one threat to Australian mammals. It was also predicted that 63 Australian species will become extinct unless necessary action is taken.

According to Professor John Woinarski, lead author of the plan, Australia's current rate of extinction in is one or two mammals per decade.

Also, a new research in Tasmania suggests that feral cats increased in abundance and became move active in areas where devils have declined due to the facial tumor disease. The introduction of these predators could create a better functioning ecosystem in places like Wilsons Prom.

Greg Hunt, Federal Environment Minister, has announced a 10-year action plan to eradicate feral cat population.

However, according to Michael McCarthy, Associate Professor in the University of Melbourne, while releasing Tasmanian devils onto the mainland has some potential, the ecological effects are unpredictable.

He said, "Any program needs to be proceeded with caution and trials need to be carried out in contained areas using fenced reserves and the experiment needs to be replicated several times in different environments".