A huge outbreak of a contagious cancer is threatening the menacing little critters in their natural habitats on the island of Tasmania. So efforts have begun to relocate healthy specimens of Tasmanian devils to nearby Maria Island. Since the onset of the cancer outbreak in the mid 1990s, 90 percent of the Tasmanian devils of Tasmania have died. Researchers estimate that within five years, the disease could impact the remaining 10 percent, with a high chance of extinction of the animal within 20 years.
But not everyone is excited about the move. Maria Island is the nesting spot of several species of endangered birds. Ecologists worry about what impact the Tasmanian devils could have on those birds’ viability. While the Tasmanian devils are scavengers, not predators, they’re not likely to hunt down these endangered birds, but experts worry that the Tasmanian devils could alter the overall eco-system in a way that could have long-term impacts on the life of the birds. Others are also worried that moving the fierce marsupials may not be enough of a guarantee that they can fight off cancer in another location.
Final approval of the move has not yet been granted by government authorities, but it is expected, so no Tasmanian devils have been relocated yet. The plan calls for using Maria Island and several other small islands in the region, to be the new home of non-cancerous Tasmanian devils.
What do you think should be done? Will moving the animals make a difference? How much weight should the well-being of other animals fit into the picture? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.