21 Apr 2013

Island proves haven for endangered devils

9:17 am on 21 April 2013

Tasmanian devils are making themselves at home on an Australian island refuge free of the facial tumour disease decimating the marsupial species.

Fifteen healthy animals were released on Maria Island, off Tasmania's east coast, five months ago and that population is set to double with the group already breeding.

Pouch young have been found in five females trapped as part of the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program's monitoring of the population, AAP reports.

Fifteen baby devils, at present resembling finger-nail sized pink blobs, are expected to also be running around Maria Island by September.

Despite the death of one devil, the population has passed muster and there are plans to introduce another 15 before the end of the year. The number could eventually reach 100.

The programme's scientific team have been monitoring the devils monthly since their release, amid some controversy, last November.

Some environmental groups had been concerned about the meat-eater's impact on existing species, particularly shore birds, with devils never having lived on Maria.

The marsupials have been dining out on possum, wombat, pademelon and echidna, while feathers and reptile scales have also been found in their droppings.

The team says it is closely monitoring any impact on other species, many of which were also introduced to the island.

Tasmanian Environment Minister Brian Wightman said he expected federal funding of $A3 million per year, which runs out this year, would continue.