Scientists may reintroduce the Tasmanian devil to the Australian wilderness as an alternative solution to the continent’s out-of-control fox and feral cat populations. These foreign predators have been feasting on native Australian fauna for some time now, causing concern for ecologists looking to restore Australia’s failing ecosystems. By releasing the Tasmanian devil—the largest meat-eating marsupial on the planet, about the size of a small dog—scientists hope that their famously-ferocious appetites will serve as a natural alternative to the Australian government’s plan to kill more than two million feral cats.
Australia’s War on Cats
The native fauna of Australia is currently threatened by two invasive foreign species: feral cats, and foxes. According to the Australian government’s Department of the Environment , these two predators were brought over to Australia during European colonization. Since their introduction, populations of both species have been steadily and rapidly increasing, due to a lack of predators, and an overabundance of native prey, including the Rabbit-eared Bandicoot, which is now in danger of becoming endangered. These cats and foxes are also known to carry infectious diseases that Australian fauna is yet to adapt to, leading to the endangerment and extinction of a wide variety of native fauna.
With feral cats and foxes threatening the survival of so many native animals and plants, the Australian government has recently vowed to take extreme measures in controlling their populations, promising to cull as many as two million feral cats .
The Tasmanian Devil Fights Back
However, with feral cats and foxes already responsible for 29 different species of native mammals having gone extinct, as well as placing over 120 other Australian species at risk of becoming endangered, scientists have been searching for faster and more natural solutions to fixing the country’s ecosystem.
Researchers from the University of New South Wales have recently suggested that reintroducing the Tasmanian devil—a species that has been extinct from the country’s mainland for more than 3,000 years, with now only a few isolated populations living scattered across Australia. Famous for their ferocity in their hunting and eating behaviors, the researchers suggest that the Tasmanian devil would likely fill the predatory gap between foxes and feral cats and the threatened, native fauna, feasting on the country’s troublesome cats and foxes.