The charred body of an endangered Tasmanian devil has mysteriously disappeared 24 hours after it was discovered by a bushwalker at a Central Highlands logging site that had been set ablaze by the state government last week.
While the physical evidence has gone, conservationists have described the images as significant because they likely capture a link between the practice of “firebombing” forests after they've been logged and wildlife deaths.
Five pictures, taken by a bushwalker, show the tiny animal curled in a foetal position inside a shallow hole. The surrounding landscape is a jumble of trees collapsed onto a thick layer of ash, resembling South Australia’s Kangaroo Island after the Black Summer bushfires.
Why the forest was burned
Planned burns are lit by Sustainable Timber Tasmania (STT), a state government-owned business.
They are usually conducted using helicopters.
They are lit after a forested area has been logged.
The fires are lit to remove debris and allow for regeneration through aerial sowing.
Why the devil's disappearance could raise questions
Tasmania remains rigidly divided between loggers and conservationists, so environment non-profit Bob Brown Foundation (BBF) said it expects to encounter “pro-logging scepticism” around the photo’s authenticity. However, its unlikely its disappearance can be traced to anything nefarious, and the body was likely taken by a hungry predator scavenging for food around the denuded landscape.
BBF described the photograph "as authentic as it is dreadful", with spokesperson Jenny Weber adding she believes nothing lives after forests are set alight after logging.
“This is the first time that we have had photographic evidence of the carnage to animals caught up in the annual autumn firebombing of native forests, as is now underway... Every snail, lizard, possum, quoll, and devil that does not escape in time is burnt to a cinder,” she said.
Government says forest checked prior to burn
STT told Yahoo News Australia forests are scanned for wildlife prior to the harvesting of timber, then reassessed for “activity” before the burn occurring. Weather conditions and soil dryness are also evaluated and if conditions are not met, the operation is postponed.
“Prior to the coupe being harvested, extensive detailed operational planning work was completed, including evaluation for forest and biodiversity values. No Tasmanian devil dens were identified during this process or found during subsequent harvesting operations,” STT’s general manager of conservation Suzette Weeding said.
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