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Nature’s Unfair Trade-off: How Penguins Paid the Catastrophic Cost of Saving the Tasmanian Devils

Nature’s Unfair Trade-off: How Penguins Paid the Catastrophic Cost of Saving the Tasmanian Devils

What started out as a noble attempt to save the declining population of the Tasmanian devils turned into a massacre for the penguins and shearwater birds of Maria islands, a 116 square kilometer island, located off the east coast of Tasmania, Australia.

A Brief History

Until about a decade ago, the devils’ population was struggling with a devastating facial cancer epidemic. In a bid to preserve dwindling populations, authorities decided to expedite a small group of 28 Tasmanian devils to the Maria Islands.

As per The Guardian, in a 2011 report by the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment of the Tasmanian Government predicted that the introduction of the Devils in the local environment would not have any significant impact on the penguin and shearwater bird colonies of the Maria island.

Devil’s Dominate Maria Island

Unfortunately, what was a thriving population of 3,000 pairs of little penguins a decade ago, today has entirely vanished from the face of the island. Short-tailed shearwaters bird populations have also been decimated by these predators, reported a study.

See Also

As per some studies, the devils’ relatively larger size than birds and natural ability to dig has tremendously impacted the local bird population, to the point where certain birds are depicting behavioural changes. Experts and conservation groups had warned authorities of such an outcome, as history is testament to the fact that the adding or introduction of predators in oceanic lands always severely impacts its bird population.

The Tasmanian devils’ populations in recent years have stabilized but a new type of facial tumor could potentially plague the species in the future. At this point, keeping a check on the Tasmanian Devils’ population seems to be the only viable option, as further creating insurance populations could be detrimental to other natural predator-free havens. Nevertheless, the destruction and massacre of the bird population of Maria islands is truly an ecological catastrophe.

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