JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) – Tasmanian devils, carnivorous marsupials, and animal cartoon-famous, ferocious eating habits have returned to Australia for the first time in 3,000 years.
“It’s a very emotional moment to see those demons released into the wild,” said Liz Gabriel, director of the Conservation Group’s OC Arc, which has led release efforts in collaboration with other conservation groups.
The recently released 11 demons began exploring their new home after being freed from white cages at the 1,000 – acre Barrington Tops Wildlife Sanctuary in New South Wales, 190 kilometers (120 miles) north of Sydney.
The Tasmanian demons, once known as Sarcophyllus satanicus, or “Satanic carnivore,” became extinct on the mainland of Australia before the arrival of the Europeans. Scientists believe the introduction of carnivorous dingos, the rise of indigenous humans, and the long El Niനോo’s dry climate caused the devil to migrate to present – day Tasmania, said Mena Jones, an environmental scientist at the University of Tasmania.
“I don’t think any one of these three factors will cause extinction – but all three together will cause extinction in the devil’s mainland,” she said.
Protecting demons in Australia since 1941, conservationists have worked for years to increase their populations, citing their importance as key predators capable of suppressing predators such as foxes and wildcats.
The biggest setback in conservation efforts was the devil’s facial tumor disease in the 1990s – when demons bitten during mating and caused large tumors that prevented food from eating – the population dropped from 140,000 to 20,000.
In response, researchers set up an insurance-free population of cancer-free demons around wildfires in the Australian island nation of Tasmania. The July and September releases are the first time that squat mammals – all of which have tested negative for the disease – have been released into the mainland in protected wildlife.
Gabriel said the Aussie Arc aims to live in unsafe areas of Australia’s mainland, hoping the demons will help control cats and foxes.
Some experts question whether the introduction will have a positive impact.
Nick Mooney, an Australian conservative who has worked with Tasmanian demons for 40 years, said wildcats are more likely to hunt for food sources than rely on the carnivore in competition with demons.
“One argument is that by including the devils in a situation that prevents them from chasing other carnivores, animals like cats and foxes will start hunting. You can actually create a protection problem that did not exist before, ”Mooney said.
There is also the matter of fame. Although demons tend to feed on small mammals, they are known to eat the carcasses of cattle and sheep, which annoys farmers.
“When you make big interventions like this, you need to buy from the community, especially those affected in the community,” Jones said. “Good advice is needed.”
Now, the demons that were released this year, and those who hope to be freed in the years to come, will not yet go into the wild. Instead they will receive supplemental feeds and be monitored by remote cameras, which have been tagged with GPS trackers to learn more about how some demons adjust to their new environment, Gabriel said.
“We dream of many wildlife sanctuaries with devils, and increasing the number of species to protect those species, as well as the animals in the environment around them,” she said. “This is just the beginning.”
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