Moscow, Jun 21 (Agency) In a conservationist move gone wrong, Tasmanian devils that were introduced to a small Australian island almost a decade ago have eliminated its entire population of little penguins. Eric Woehler, the convenor of BirdLife Tasmania, told The Guardian daily that marsupials had a “catastrophic” impact on thousands of penguins that lived on the Maria Island, off the east coast of Tasmania, before the devils were shipped there as an insurance in 2012. “Losing 3,000 pairs of penguins from an island that is a national park that should be a refuge for this species basically is a major blow,” Woehler was quoted as saying in an article out on Monday.
The decision to move a small population of devils to the island was taken to safeguard the species against the contagious and deadly devil facial tumor disease, but the initial group of 28 animals has multiplied, reaching 100 by 2016. The spread of the disease in the main population has meanwhile slowed. The predators’ arrival on the oceanic island has had a devastating impact on more than one bird species, Woehler said. For instance, there have been reports of the normally ground-nesting Cape Barren geese trying to nest in the trees to avoid predation.