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Tasmanian Devils - Roadkill

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Tags: Tasmanian Devil, Roads

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, the shocking numbers of Tasmanian devils killed on the roads in the north-west of Tasmania has been brought to public attention by desperate locals in the area who have been collecting photographic evidence. Some recent and new analysis published in the journal Ecology Letters by doctors Callum and Cunningham have estimated only 17 000 devils are left in the wild compared to the 53 000 that were recorded in 1996 when the devil facial tumour disease was first discovered, The authors predicted there would be a continued decline of Tasmanian devils, stabilising, they hope or estimate, at 13 000 by 2035. We have seen a terrifying 74 per cent reduction in the population in the last 39 years and although the authors do not consider there is a short-term risk of extinction for the Tasmanian devil population, it is clear that this beautiful animal is on the brink of extinction and remains there. This is having a devasting impact not just on the devil and its populations but on the rise of feral cats and the flow-on effect to so many other animals in Tasmania.

Habitat loss and other environment pressures are a major threat. Roadkill was specifically mentioned as a priority by Professor Menna Jones, another author on that paper, and it must be addressed to save the species. This recent alarming information about deaths on roads in the north-west, particularly adjacent to the Woolnorth property which is now the location of Van Dairy Farms was shown by the ABC last week. What we are seeing is extremely distressing. Ten devils died within a five-day period and at least 30 devils have been killed on those roads since January this year. That is a staggering number. A DPIPWE spokesperson has confirmed this is not a new situation. Devil deaths have previously been recorded in summer months, which is just evidence that the extra seasonal threat that exists has to be identified and fought.

We have written to the director of the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Tasmania and the Minister for Environment and Parks seeking their immediate action to protect these devils.

It is also the case that the Van Dairy company is under investigation for other serious environmental impact allegations in relation to effluent pollution leaching into the wetland areas of the Robbins Island passage. If they are to be found responsible for that effluent damage and these deaths, they must be held to account. Moon Lake Investments is the Chinese company that bought Van Diemen's Land Company for $280 million in 2016. As part of an agreement to that, the federal government requires the company to make investments of $100 million to employ locals and to make sure they protect Tassie devils, but there is no evidence that the company has honoured any of those commitments.

Tasmanians are sick and tired of hearing about private companies destroying wildlife without any accountability. It is clear that the Minister for Environment and Parks is not prioritising this portfolio. The last state budget confirmed that the Save the Tassie Devil program will no longer get any funding from this Government after 2021-22 when the initiative is said to be 'complete'. The Greens do not buy that. It is clearly not complete when you have vast numbers of devils dying on the roads like this, seemingly from company milk trucks speeding backwards and forwards and other vehicles related to the farming activity.

There are solutions. The Minister for Environment and Parks and the EPA together must be involved in making sure there are permanent reductions in speed limits, putting in wildlife crossings, signage, having further trials of virtual fencing technology and placing virtual fencing technology in there. The locals demand that their area is protected and all Tasmanians want to know that the hard work people in Tasmania have been doing, children in schools and people all around this country, putting money into the Save the Tassie Devil program is not in vain. I remember standing at primary schools and collecting money for the devil program. It would be an absolute disgrace if large numbers of these animals are thoughtlessly killed when these deaths could be prevented. There are specific actions to hold Van Dairy and other bodies to account if they are responsible, but it is clearly the case that something should and must be done.