Lucky devils had Bruce
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