Devils wipe out Little Penguins on Maria Island

Recent media coverage has drawn attention to the role of Tasmanian Devils in wiping out all breeding colonies of Little Penguins (previously several thousand birds) on Maria Island. The Devils were introduced to the island in 2012 as an insurance population safe from the facial tumour disease decimating Devils on mainland Tasmania. The study that preceded the introduction noted “There is expected to be a negative impact on little penguin and shearwater colonies on Maria Island through devil predation”. Members of the public contacted PWS as early as 2015 to raise concerns about impacts on the penguin colonies and correspondence from DPIPWE acknowledged that management criteria for reduction of devil numbers were reached in 2017. So why didn’t the removal of Devils commence immediately? Little Penguins are not the only species affected – there is evidence of Cape Barren Geese attempting (unsuccessfully) to nest in trees to avoid devils and the initial study noted several other species that might be affected.

This situation demonstrates an alarming failure of management responsibility by PWS and DPIPWE. The concerns raised at the time of the initial relocation should have been sufficient to ensure careful monitoring of potential impacts and an immediate reduction in devil numbers as soon as criteria for impacts were breached.

National parks exist to protect their pre-existing native species. They should not be places where they are under increased threat from well-intentioned but inadequately managed management intervention. All aspects of the insurance population of devils should be reviewed immediately.

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