Translocation of a top-order carnivore: tracking the initial survival, spatial movement, home-range establishment and habitat use of Tasmanian devils on Maria Island.
Australian Mammalogy 38(1) 68-79.
The Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) is a carnivorous marsupial threatened with extinction from the emergence of Devil Facial Tumour Disease. The establishment of ex situ populations is a key management action for the species. We examined the initial survival, movement pattern, home range, and habit use of six devils from a total of 15 individuals translocated to Maria Island (south-east Tasmania). A total of 14 devils (93%) survived the initial monitoring phase within this study (122 days after translocation). The maximum and minimum distance recorded during one night was 21.73 km (range = 14.12–25.40 km) and 1.94 km (range = 0.07–7.71 km), respectively, while the average nightly distance travelled varied significantly (range = 7.24–13.07 km) between individuals. Short-term home-range size (90% kernel) varied from 936 to 3501 ha, with an average of 2180 (±836) ha for all devils. The habitat preference of devils on Maria Island shows a positive association with agricultural and urban habitats, and an avoidance of wet eucalypt forest. The home range and habitat associations may change as competitive pressures increase with population growth; however, this initial research indicates that translocation as a management action is a powerful tool for the establishment of ex situ populations, assisting in the continued conservation of this species.