Lucky devils had Bruce

Mercury (Hobart) - - YOUR TASMANIA -

AVING the Tas­ma­nian devil from al­most cer­tain ex­tinc­tion in just a decade must surely rank among Aus­tralia’s great­est en­vi­ron­men­tal achieve­ments.

That the pro­gram — the bulk of which was wound up yes­ter­day af­ter 10 years of op­er­a­tion — was the brain­child of a lo­cal wildlife park owner makes it an even more as­ton­ish­ing story, and one that all Tas­ma­ni­ans should be proud of.

The Devil Is­land project was started in 2006 to cre­ate a series of dou­ble-fenced sanc­tu­ar­ies to pro­tect healthy Tas­ma­nian devils from the spread of a con­ta­gious can­cer-like — and fa­tal — fa­cial tu­mour dis­ease passed on by bit­ing that was lay­ing waste to the wild pop­u­la­tion. It is es­ti­mated that more than 80 per cent of the wild pop­u­la­tion of devils has been wiped out by the dis­ease in the past two decades.

The owner of a Bicheno wildlife park, Bruce En­gle­field, came up with the idea of a Noah’s Ark­type so­lu­tion — large-scale quar­an­tine fa­cil­i­ties, or “is­lands” up to 24 hectares each, built to house dis­ease-free devils in their nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.

In the years since, a vac­cine has been de­vel­oped and a healthy pop­u­la­tion of devils has been es­tab­lished on Maria Is­land off the state’s East Coast — as both in­sur­ance, and from where an­i­mals can be brought back to re­pop­u­late the main is­land.

Mr En­gle­field said yes­ter­day he and the project’s other co-or­di­na­tors felt the devil’s fate was now se­cure.

It was there­fore time, he said, to have a wel­learned rest. The Mercury could not agree more. Not only has the most iconic Tas­ma­nian an­i­mal been saved from go­ing the way of the tiger, the Devil Is­land

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