Palaces For The People
Monday, October 20, 2003
The Mercury: Disease risk fears for state ecology [15oct03]: "Disease risk fears for state ecology
By ROHAN WADE
A DISEASE estimated to have already killed 50,000 Tasmanian devils was likely to alter the entire ecology of the state, a workshop in Launceston was told yesterday.
It also heard that anecdotal evidence of a surge in aborted lambs from toxoplasmosis, a disease carried by cats, could be proof that feral cat numbers were increasing with less devil competition.
Convened by the Primary Industries, Water and Environment Department, the workshop brought together experts from interstate and overseas in a first-step toward combating the disease threatening to wipe-out Tasmania's internationally recognised animal symbol.
US animal disease expert Marco Rostani said taking devils out of the state's predator system would have immediate impacts on other animals.
He suggested other predators -- native ones such as quolls, and introduced foxes and feral cats -- would thrive without devils feeding on their young and competing for food.
Department wildlife officer Nick Mooney said he had already observed an apparent correlation between high feral cat numbers and low devil populations being pressured by the disease, which causes cancer-like tumours on infected animals' faces."