Professor Hamish McCallum, a senior scientist who has been working to protect the devil, says his plans to isolate healthy devils on small islands off Tasmania have been blocked by conservationists and opponents in the state government.

“There was a proposal before I arrived to actually put devils onto some offshore islands in order to ensure that there were some disease-free populations,” he said.

“For a variety of reasons, including opposition from sections of the conservation movement, this hasn’t happened yet.”

Conservationists are concerned about placing wild animals in unnatural habitats with potentially disastrous results, as was the case with cane toads and foxes.

But while Professor McCallum concurs with exercising caution, he says in this case it may be the only solution.

“There are some times when that’s the only thing that could be done to save a species, and I think the tasmanian devil is in that situation,” he said.

And he says the clock is ticking. While it is hard to know just how fast the disease is spreading, there may only be three to four years in which to move genuinely disease-free animals.

With very little transmission of the disease from parents to offspring, it would be possible to move very young devils out of the diseased populations and know that they are disease free.

… Professor McCallum has resigned from his position for personal reasons, but is concerned that nobody has been appointed to fill his role. Read more here


The tasmanian devil is at risk of extinction from a deadly facial cancer, but plans to save it are being thwarted.