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Devils Needed on the Mainland

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Reintroducing Tasmanian devils to the mainland could improve biodiversity by limiting the spread of red foxes and feral cats in habitats where dingoes have been culled, according to a study in Biological Conservation.

Tasmanian devils once lived across the Australian continent, but became extinct on the mainland 3000 years ago as a consequence of hunting by dingoes. However, extensive dingo culls to protect livestock have now shifted the ecological balance, enabling invasive predators to wreak havoc with native mammals and igniting discussions about bringing the devil back to the mainland.

Ecologists from The University of NSW have now assessed the impact of reintroducing Tasmanian devils to forest ecosystems in south-eastern parts of NSW. “There are large areas where the dingo is gone, and we need a predator who can suppress fox numbers,” says PhD candidate Daniel Hunter. “The devil is the obvious answer. It doesn’t pose as serious a risk to livestock, and it has played a major role in stopping foxes from establishing a foothold in Tasmania.”

The study found that the devil could restore important ecosystem functions previously performed by dingoes. Furthermore, reintroduction could help ensure the long-term survival of the devil, which has seen massive population decline in Tasmania due to devil facial tumour disease.

The team reviewed...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.