PDA

View Full Version : Tasmanian devils (and thylacines)



Kevin Bonham
16-07-2004, 03:37 PM
There can't be a lot of work for snail researchers. Mate, why don't you change specialty to Tassie Tigers? I feel really sorry for them things. They're dying out mate - what with that cancer they got goin'. Is the Tassie government doing anything about this?? It just breaks me heart that we kill more species into extinction in this continent than anyone else in any other place on the planet!

Indeed we do (or have). But now some facts about the murky world of Devil Facial Tumour Disease.

Firstly - I think you meant Tassie Devils. The tigers almost certainly snuffed it long ago.

Second - the devils are dying in droves, but not dying out. Prior to the disease their population had been booming for decades (for reasons including sheepfarming providing extra carrion, and lack of competition from the late thylacine). In some areas the facial tumour disease has been killing 80-90%, but with a species that had oiver 100,000 individuals before the crash, and with some areas unaffected, there's no way it's going to knock them over or even close. The species is prone to massive population crashes - has happened twice before, at least.

The government is doing heaps about it - $1.8 million in funding already, although they still haven't isolated the cause. Work on species that are actually far more threatened (including some of my little friends) is getting seriously squeezed by competition from devil disease research because of the level of public hysteria about it.

The greenies here generally reckon it must be caused by logging. This may turn out to be true in the end, no-one knows yet, but they're remarkably closed-minded and tend to assume that if anything might be useful in scoring points against the forest industries then it has got to be true.

(As for me, I don't only work on snails, but yes, my current work is snail-related.)

arosar
16-07-2004, 03:47 PM
Cheers mate. I'm comin' down in October for the weekender. So I expect a few devils to left alive by then.

AR

Kevin Bonham
16-07-2004, 03:55 PM
Cheers mate. I'm comin' down in October for the weekender. So I expect a few devils to left alive by then.

AR

Should we let one go in the tournament hall while he is in a time scramble? :eek:

Rincewind
16-07-2004, 04:39 PM
Firstly - I think you meant Tassie Devils. The tigers almost certainly snuffed it long ago.

What news on the project to revive the Thylacine? It received a media beat up a year or two ago. Apparently they were going to extract DNA for existing tissue samples and create a new Thylacine zygot. Them implant this in the womb of a large marsupial (possibly a Devil) as a host mother.

Do you know if this is still an active project, or has it died in the proverbial?

Kevin Bonham
16-07-2004, 05:09 PM
I believe that that is still a going concern, but is not generally given a very high chance of success.

Garvinator
18-07-2004, 08:43 AM
http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=12667 this article just appeared on the ninemsn website.

Kevin Bonham
19-07-2004, 08:14 PM
That Scammell report's been big news down here the last week or so. I've read it and it would have been better if he'd stuck to the oyster stuff and left the devils out of it - the devil section is pretty weak scientifically. A classic case of post hoc correlation, meaning that you find that something has a pattern, then you notice something else with the same, then you say "hmmmm, maybe these are connected". Very easy to do in science and very easy to be wrong about.

The ninemsn report you cited is actually quite a balanced report of the debate here so far.

Nothing Peg Putt says about any scientific issue should be taken seriously without confirmation from someone who knows what they're talking about.

Rincewind
28-02-2005, 06:29 PM
I believe that that is still a going concern, but is not generally given a very high chance of success.

Looks like the Australian Museum has shelved the Thylacine Cloning project (announced 15/2/05). However, thylacine sightings continue unabated.

Front page of The Mercury today for example tells the tale of a German tourist who got a few happy snaps of stripy marsupials on his digital camera and investigations are continunig. Experts say the animal in the photos are more like a thylacine than anything else but the integrity of the photos themselves is still in question. Funny how these photos are always blurry and no physical evidence is uncovered. Still, I hope for the tigers' sake they are around somewhere as it doesn't look like we will be bringing them out of extinction any time soon.

Kevin Bonham
01-03-2005, 04:50 PM
That has been much discussed and the state of play is that experts are convinced the animal depicted is a thylacine but are unable to determine whether the photos are genuine or fake because the owners will not leave copies.

Since the people taking the photos have not named themselves I can quite safely say that I expect these are fakes and that this is a cash-raising scam. At the very least unless the photos are confirmed as authentic this adds nothing to the debate.

Because of the ease of faking photos these days many scientists I know will only accept the animal as still extant if hard physical evidence such as a body is produced.

Kevin Bonham
15-03-2006, 09:58 AM
AR asked about the devil disease on the Tas Champs thread.

Current state of play:

* There has been no progress towards a cure.
* The devil has been listed on the state threatened species with risk level Vulnerable (above Rare but below Endangered) on account of its population being believed to have crashed by about 28% in the last 10 years.
* The disease continues to spread but is still absent from large parts of the state.
* The disease is believed to be an extremely unusual form of cancer which spreads directly from devil to devil through biting during fights. In most species the immune system would automatically reject cancer cells from another organism but devils may be too inbred for this to occur. There is only one other known case in the animal kingdom of cancer being transmitted this way.
* If the theory above is correct the disease probably started with one or a small bunch of devils copping a whiff of something nasty. Of course the greenies have been insisting it must be a forestry chemical but it could just as easily be an agricultural chemical, a naturally occurring chemical, or anything, or it could just be an unlucky mutation. There is a lot of debate about whether it has happened before.
* I don't personally think there is any real risk of it wiping the species out.

Kevin Bonham
24-11-2011, 11:42 PM
*bump*

There is a record level of idiocy about Tasmanian Devils in debate down here lately and some of it has escaped onto the north island (quite a bit of rubbish in the Canberra Times lately).

So for the record, the area known as the Tarkine is actually not the last disease-free stronghold of the Tasmanian devil, and it is not going to vanish off the earth if the Tarkine is not given <insert protected status here> or if <insert development here> is not refused. The local Greens are consistently dishonestly pushing the claim that the Tarkine is the last refuge when in fact substantial areas of the west and far south are apparently still disease free.

The disease is now estimated to have reduced numbers by something like 70%, however there are signs that populations in the west of the state are much less affected when the disease reaches them, and that many individuals in these populations are resistant or immune. It remains my view that the species isn't going to be wiped out by the disease and that the issue is being overhyped (including by some scientists who should know better.)

Sir Cromulent Sparkles
24-11-2011, 11:52 PM
bob brown ?

antichrist
24-11-2011, 11:52 PM
but protective measures should still be carried out just in case it stays serious. At least a formidable gene pool established and protected. As far as I am concerned if we can spend money on welfare when the bods are not sick, and on an expensive army we can be a bit overprotective of our animal species.

I know people up here nothing wrong who never do a days work in their life and get continual social welfare. They just watch TV etc all day. So unproductive and lazy.

Kevin Bonham
25-11-2011, 12:01 AM
bob brown ?

Christine Milne is worse. Actually Milne is a general tryhard on threatened species issues, as are a some of the state Greens. Cassy O'Connor is in general a good government minister but on threatened species issues she is as earnest as she is hopeless.


but protective measures should still be carried out just in case it stays serious. At least a formidable gene pool established and protected.

This I agree with and substantial insurance populations are being established interstate, including some in semi-wild enclosures, as well as here.

I also think the disease is so novel that it is well worth spending quite a lot on researching and attempting to control it because this may prove useful in similar cases affecting more seriously threatened species in the future, and because the crash in devil numbers is bound to be having flow-on impacts on other species.

I just get tired of the doomy hype about the species and the constant misuse of it for unrelated political goals. We continually have the Greens arguing that areas should be reserved from logging because the devil is in them. As if the disease is going to suddenly realise it has run into a reserve boundary and say "oops, I'm not allowed in here" and keep out.

antichrist
25-11-2011, 12:08 AM
I dont know the habits of the devil at all, but does logging disorient them or causes them to abandon an area? I used to think that koalas could read english coz at those koala crossings over highways they would put a sign in english of Koala Crossing, but that was only for the humans to read. The koalas would still cross there even if had became very dangerous due to the new highway just built - so just goes to prove we can fool ourselves in real life as well as in chess

Kevin Bonham
25-11-2011, 12:43 AM
I dont know the habits of the devil at all, but does logging disorient them or causes them to abandon an area?

Logging here in wet forests is a pretty hefty impact. In some coupes (though not as many as used to be the case) everything outside informal reserves is felled and burnt at high temperature to encourage regeneration. If there are devil dens in a coupe they will most likely have to relocate, and there's also some risk of them being killed either during clearing or by the regen burn. Whether the regenerating coupe is any good for devils depends on what sort of load of mammals it is carrying and hence its potential carrion value.

Devils are very mobile animals when they need to be.

antichrist
25-11-2011, 12:51 AM
well now I can understand the Greenies jumping up and down

Kevin Bonham
25-11-2011, 12:54 AM
well now I can understand the Greenies jumping up and down

But there's a difference between killing some specimens of a species and placing the species at risk of extinction. If they want to object to logging because it kills animals and make that an animal welfare issue then that's fine - but they shouldn't pass it off as a kind of issue it is not.

As far as devils go, logging is a tenth-rate issue. Until this disease came they were abundant (probably over-numerous) and the idea that there was any threat to their survival was simply ludicrous. Also, it's not as if forests are just logged all over the place with no thought to keeping the impacts on things like devils to a manageable level. Forestry is very heavily regulated.

antichrist
25-11-2011, 01:20 AM
heavily regulated in name only but not in practise. The NSW forrestry dept has a shocking record in compliance etc

Kevin Bonham
25-11-2011, 01:24 AM
heavily regulated in name only but not in practise. The NSW forrestry dept has a shocking record in compliance etc

Be interested in any evidence for that actually as concerns NSW. Regulated agencies are rarely perfect but I don't usually find that allegations of systemic serious failure stack up either.

antichrist
25-11-2011, 01:36 AM
Be interested in any evidence for that actually as concerns NSW. Regulated agencies are rarely perfect but I don't usually find that allegations of systemic serious failure stack up either.

issues are mentioned here in green weekly http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/2575

Kevin Bonham
25-11-2011, 01:39 AM
issues are mentioned here in green weekly http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/2575

Looks like the usual empty generic ritual forest conflict bulldust to me. Incidentally Dr Drielsma mentioned in the report is ex-Forestry Tas.

antichrist
25-11-2011, 10:20 AM
even if a species is not threatened I am sometimes against development just for the sake of it. When are they going to say that enuf is enuf - whether world's population or stuffing up the environment. We have wrecked the atmosphere and we are determined to do the same to the earth.

Kevin Bonham
25-11-2011, 05:48 PM
even if a species is not threatened I am sometimes against development just for the sake of it.

That's fair enough too in my view. What's not fair enough in my view is people being dishonest/clueless and using bogus arguments about threatened species to fight developments when their actual reason for opposition is different. I realise that it's very tempting because threatened species beatups are so effective, but people won't get their other reasons taken seriously while they keep going on about threatened species instead.

Kevin Bonham
21-07-2013, 10:56 PM
In March I wrote an article about Tasmanian devils and media nonsense about them, and recently I updated it following the court decision cancelling Tony Burke's approval of a Shree Minerals proposal:

Tasmanian Devils Not On The "Verge Of Extinction" (http://kevinbonham.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/tasmanian-devils-not-on-verge-of.html)

Strangely, the link to the Shree decision update has become my second most retweeted tweet since I joined Twitter last October!

antichrist
07-08-2013, 08:24 PM
Tasmanian Devils valued at $45,000 each if any mineral mining trucks wipe them, out on the roads. I wonder how many will be reported as road kill or drivers will be told to shut up and accept a few cartons of grog instead.

Kevin Bonham
07-08-2013, 08:30 PM
Tasmanian Devils valued at $45,000 each if any mineral mining trucks wipe them, out on the roads. I wonder how many will be reported as road kill or drivers will be told to shut up and accept a few cartons of grog instead.

The first two per year are free and the fine kicks in after that.

It's a remarkable condition. If there was a proposal for a general fine of $48K for anyone who accidentally kills three Tasmanian Devils in a year there would be outrage.

I'm not sure what the enforcement/reporting provisions are like.

The Tarkine groups are continuing to oppose mines no matter what devil-related conditions are placed on them, because it isn't really about the devil; it's about the Tarkine and the activists being completely opposed to new substantial mines in it.

Kevin Bonham
18-11-2014, 03:09 AM
Some may encounter the current article in The Conversation about Tasmanian devils.

It's hogwash. A PhD student in sociology whose supervisor is an anti-vaxer (and an eccentric on various other diseases) has basically cobbled together a 400-page conspiracy theory out of the idea of "undone science". The article makes ludicrously false claims that the distribution of the disease corellates with that of forestry plantations and goes on on that basis to assert that there are problems with the main theory of how the disease spreads (while grossly misrepresenting the massive body of research behind it). It suggests serious investigation of a counter-theory already known to be obviously false.

Alas the University of Wollongong is irresponsible for allowing this. I sent a complaint to The Conversation suggesting the article was as credible as the idea that toilet seats cause AIDS.

ElevatorEscapee
20-11-2014, 09:00 PM
Plan to release Tasmanian Devils back onto the mainland (could help to "keep fox and cat numbers down").

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/tasmanian-devil-plan-to-release-some-into-the-wild-in-other-states/story-fni0fiyv-1227117594268?nk=cfd69296e929019773264247a9598568

Kevin Bonham
20-11-2014, 09:25 PM
Plan to release Tasmanian Devils back onto the mainland (could help to "keep fox and cat numbers down").


Wishful thinking in my view. I think it's risky and unnecessary.

Kevin Bonham
09-09-2017, 10:06 PM
http://kevinbonham.blogspot.com.au/2017/09/thylacine-specimen-or-it-didnt-happen.html

Thylacine: Specimen Or It Didn't Happen

My sceptical take on recent claimed "video evidence" of thylacines.

Desmond
10-09-2017, 09:48 AM
Seems to be about the same picture quality as your average bigfoot or ufo sighting.