Nov 16

A group of Tasmanian devils is to be transferred to a small offshore island in the hope of creating a self-sustaining population, free from the disease that is threatening the survival of the species.

Photo of a pair of juvenile Tasmanian devils at the entrance to the den

Juvenile Tasmanian devils at entrance to den

Found only in Tasmania, the Tasmanian devil population has been decimated in recent years by a highly contagious facial cancer. The cancer is spread through bites when the animals fight, and typically causes death within three to six months. Few disease-free areas now remain, and the Tasmanian devil population has plummeted by a staggering 91%.

Insurance population

In a desperate attempt to save this iconic species from extinction, 14 individuals are to be released on Maria Island, a national park off Tasmania’s east coast. The animals will be carefully selected from captive breeding programmes across Australia which have been set up to try and prevent the Tasmanian devil from dying out.

Photo of Tasmanian devil with Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD)

Tasmanian devil with Devil Facial Tumour Disease

The Maria Island translocation is designed to establish a self-sustaining population of healthy wild devils in a safe haven where they are protected from interaction with the deadly facial tumour disease,” said Brian Wightman, Tasmania’s Environment Minister. “It will strengthen the insurance population of disease-free Tasmanian devils, help preserve wild traits in the insurance population and provide genetic stock for future reintroductions.”

Last resort

A rugged island that can only be reached by boat or plane, Maria Island has never before been home to Tasmanian devils, so there should be no risk of disease. Experts believe the animals are unlikely to impact other native species on the island, although the ecosystem will be carefully monitored.

Photo of adult and juvenile Tasmanian devils fighting

The contagious cancer is spread through bites when Tasmanian devils fight over food and territory

According to Australia’s Environment Minister, Tony Burke, transferring the devils is a last resort, and has to be performed with good scientific oversight. All the animals will be carefully screened before they are released.

If the transfer is successful, scientists plan to increase the number of Tasmanian devils on Maria Island to about 50 over the next 2 years.

Read more on this story at The Telegraph – Australia’s Tasmanian devils to get fresh start on new island.

View photos and videos of Tasmanian devils on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

May 1

The koala has been listed as a threatened species in parts of Australia due to its shrinking population, according to officials.

Photo of koala sleeping

Koala sleeping

Koalas under threat

One of Australia’s most iconic marsupials, the koala is facing a range of threats, including habitat loss, urban expansion, dog attacks, vehicle collisions and disease. Its specialised diet of eucalyptus leaves confines it to quite specific habitats, while increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere may be reducing the nutrient content of the leaves it eats.

Climate change is also increasing the risk of drought and fires, with koalas being particularly vulnerable to bushfires as their slow movements and tree-dwelling lifestyle make it difficult for them to escape.

Photo of koala eating eucalyptus leaves

Koala eating eucalyptus leaves

Although the koala’s exact population size is unclear, in New South Wales and Queensland its numbers are believed to have fallen by as much as 40% since 1990.

Iconic species

Under the new listing, koalas in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory will be considered ‘vulnerable’ on Australia’s national list of threatened species. Extra funding will be given to develop new survey methods for koalas and find out more about koala habitat.

According to the Australian Environment Minister, Tony Burke, the decision to list the koala as vulnerable followed a “rigorous scientific assessment”.

Photo of koala joey feeding on eucalyptus leaves

Koala joey feeding on eucalyptus leaves

We’re talking about a species that is not only iconic in Australia, but is known worldwide, a species that has taken a massive hit over the last 20 years and we can’t wait any longer before we turn the corner when the scientists are telling us the evidence is in,” he said.

Koalas are an iconic Australian animal and they hold a special place in the community… People have made it very clear to me that they want to make sure the koala is protected for future generations.”

Varying populations

The listing does not cover the whole of Australia, with koala populations in some areas thought to be larger and stable or even increasing.

Photo of a koala

Koala

However, conservationists, including Deborah Tabart of the Australian Koala Foundation, have argued that the koala should be protected nationwide. Although the new listing may be a step in the right direction, the koala still faces many threats and the future of this Australian icon is far from secure.

Read more on this story at BBC News and the Australian Government media release.

Find out more about koala conservation at the Australian Koala Foundation.

View more photos and videos of the koala on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author

Jan 26

Australia Day is an annual celebration to mark the first arrival of ships in Sydney Cove from Great Britain in 1788. Held on the 26th January every year, Australia Day began as an anniversary dinner for the original colonists, to celebrate the love of the land they lived in. The name ‘Australia Day’ was not used until 1935, but today the anniversary still celebrates everything that’s great about Australia.

Here at ARKive, we thought we’d get into the spirit by celebrating some of Australia’s more unusually named critters…..

 

Quokka

Similar to a kangaroo or wallaby in appearance, the quokka was given its peculiar name by the Aboriginal people living in Western Australia. The quokka is a species of marsupial, and therefore has a pouch in which the young are raised.

Quokka image

Quokka (Setonix brachyurus)

 

Chuditch

A small cat-sized marsupial, the chuditch is nocturnal and spends its days sleeping in hollow logs or burrows. This species is Western Australia’s largest endemic carnivore, and will feed on a wide range of things from small mammals, to lizards, frogs and birds!

Chuditch image

Chuditch (Dasyurus geoffroii)

 

Crest-tailed mulgara

This desert marsupial mouse is well-adapted to its arid habitat. Having evolved kidneys capable of producing highly concentrated urine, the crest-tailed mulgara does not even need to drink, with its food providing it with adequate water.

Crest-tailed mulgara image

Crest-tailed mulgara (Dasycercus cristicauda)

 

Tasselled wobbegong

The highly unusual looking tasselled wobbegong is superbly camouflaged among sun-dappled coral by its beautiful mosaic markings. The scientific name of this shark roughly translates to ‘well fringed nose with shaggy beard’, and you can see why!

Tasselled wobbegong image

Tasselled wobbegong (Eucrossorhinus dasypogon)

 

Greater bilby

With its long, slender hind legs and oversized ears, the greater bilby is certainly a comical looking animal. To add to this appearance, the tail is carried as a stiff banner during the bilby’s cantering run.

Greater bilby image

Greater bilby (Macrotis lagotis)

 

Dibbler

The rare dibbler is a small carnivorous marsupial, with strong jaws and sharp teeth which it uses to capture its prey of invertebrates and other small ground-dwelling creatures.

Dibbler image

Dibbler (Parantechinus apicalis)

 

Kowari

Newborn kowaris measure a mere 4 millimetres long at birth, and remain in the female’s pouch for around 56 days. After this, the young are left in the nest or ride on the female’s back, until weaned at about 95 to 100 days.

Kowari image

Kowari (Dasyuroides byrnei)

 

Golden bandicoot

Now who wouldn’t find these young golden bandicoots cute?! These well presented bandicoots have fused toes on their hind feet, which form a comb for grooming.

Golden bandicoot image

Golden bandicoot (Isoodon auratus)

 

Spotted any other unusually named Australian critters on ARKive? Let us know!

Celebrate Australia Day by taking a look at some of the other wonderful species found there.

Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author

About

RSS feedArkive.org is the place for films, photos and facts about endangered species. Subscribe to our blog today to keep up to date!

Email updates

Sign up to receive a regular email digest of Arkive blog posts.
Preferred frequency:

Arkive twitter

Twitter: ARKive