Devil of a time in Tassie

This article has photo gallery Published on Department of Defence (author), Matthew Newton (photographer), Sam Fox (photographer)

Location(s): Stony Head, Tasmania

Topic(s): Navy Headquarters Tasmania

LCDR Angella Hillis, SQNLDR Paul Gough, CPO Jamie Schmith and SGT Liz Beard pose at the Devil Release Control Centre before assisting with setting up.
 (photo: Sam Fox)
LCDR Angella Hillis, SQNLDR Paul Gough, CPO Jamie Schmith and SGT Liz Beard pose at the Devil Release Control Centre before assisting with setting up.

Defence personnel have been up close and personal with some of Australia's most at risk animals supporting the release of 33 captive Tasmanian Devils into the wild at Stony Head Military Training Area.
Navy, Army, Air Force and Defence Public Service personnel joined forces in a unique effort in August, as part of the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program release.
The Program is a joint response by the Australian and Tasmanian governments to combat the threat facing Tasmanian Devils from devil facial tumour disease. 
The condition has had a massive impact on the populations of the animals around Tasmania.
The aim of the release program is to reintroduce genetic diversity into the now small, isolated wild populations and to boost the numbers in the wild. Genetic diversity in a population helps prevent the risk of genetic problems and diseases. 
The use of Stony Head Military Training Area was co-ordinated by the Regional Environment and Sustainability Officer, Dr Kate Hibbert, and Assistant Range Control Officer Warrant Officer Class Two Robert Butchart, of the Directorate of Training Area Management; both part of Estate and Infrastructure Group. 
Defence volunteers travelled 3.5 hrs from Hobart to assist with setting up the release sites. Navy and Air Force personnel assisted the release, by picketing the devils at the release sites while the Program team attended final coordination briefings.
Operations Officer at Navy Headquarters - Tasmania Chief Petty Officer Combat Systems Manager Jamie Schmith said it was a unique opportunity to be involved with the project.
“Being from Queensland it was a rare honour to be a small part of and witness the release of the Tasmanian Devils into the wild,” he said. 
“It was also very informative listening to the team members explain the program they have in place for the sustainability of these marsupials.”
Program staff will also attempt to re-trap the devils in coming weeks to check their health.
Dr Hibbert said Defence aimed to be a leader in sustainable environmental management to support to capability. 
“Although at first it seems like the protection of the Tasmanian Devil population is not vital to supporting capability, having a healthy training area is,” she said. 
“Without the devils there is increased opportunity for feral animals like cats and rabbits to thrive.
“This then affects other animals and plants, and can result in an environment that is no longer suitable for training. 
“Stony Head was chosen as the release site because of its remote location and healthy natural environment, which is a great compliment to Defence’s land management.”
Stony Head Military Training Area is a 5500ha property on the north coast of Tasmania, about 45 minutes from Launceston. It provides a great variety of terrain for training, including flat rural land, undulating coastal scrub and hilly open forest as well as rocky and sandy beaches and cliffs along its coastline.