Investigations are under way into the discovery of five dead Tasmanian devils south of Hobart as new research shows a decline in population of the threatened species is affecting the island state’s ecosystem.
The carcasses of five of the carnivorous marsupials, including a mother with two babies in her pouch, were found near the township of Cygnet by a bushwalker, a spokesperson for the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment said.
Nearby were the bodies of two wedge-tailed eagles, a brown falcon and a sparrow hawk.
“Indications show that they may have been poisoned but there’s no confirming that,” wildlife ranger Matt Jones told the ABC. He added that it’s difficult to find who is responsible in such cases.
Police confirmed they are helping look into the deaths.
“Devils are now functionally extinct in eastern Tasmania as far as possums are concerned, and our research found that possums are spending more time on the ground and are moving further from the safety of trees to feed,” she said.
“This change in behaviour has occurred very quickly and shows how the decline of the devils has disrupted the ecosystem.”
Researchers estimate there has been a decline of about 90% in the number of devils in eastern Tasmania.
This article was first published by The Guardian on 17 Jun 2015.