Application for Scientific Permit – Available for Public Comment
Public comment on the following application for a Scientific Research (Fauna) Permit is open until 8th October 2021.
Applicant: University of Tasmania
Species/Taxon: Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii), spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus), eastern quoll (Dasyurus viverrinus), brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus), eastern pygmy-possum (Cercartetus nanus), brown bandicoot (Issoodon obesulus), eastern barred bandicoot (Perameles nasuta), dusky antechinus (Antechinus sp.), swamp rat (Rattus lutreolus), long-tailed mouse (Pseudomys higginsi), black rat (Rattus rattus)
Location: The 24 study sites are located in the northern half of Tasmania spread across the full width of the island and devil-decline regions. Sites are located within forestry lands (i.e., Goulds Country, Bulgobac River, Sumac Forest, Tooms Lake, and Meander), private lands (i.e., Myrtle Bank, Ringarooma, Forth, Penguin, Lower Mount Hick, Rocky Cape, Takone, Marrawah, West Montagu, and Togari), and local, state and regional reserves. Local, state and regional reserves where sites are situated include Avenue River Forest Reserve, Mount Victoria Regional Reserve, Liffey Falls State Reserve, Mersey White Water Regional Reserve, Hellyer Gorge State Reserve, Mount Murchison Regional Reserve, Mt Dundas Regional Reserve, and Wellington Park. We will conduct camera surveys and live trapping in all of the sites. For Wellington Park only, we will experimentally control black rats to study the interspecific competition between black rats and swamp rats.
Title of research: Eco-evolutionary community dynamics of disease-induced apex predator declines
Aim of project: We will identify how devil loss influences the density of key mesopredator and prey species and how these changes influence population genetic structure of the entire mammalian community (= landscape genomics). Further, we will also uncover the competitive effect of black rats on swamp rats to test whether populations of black rats are suppressed by predators or competitors through experimentally removing black rats from habitat patches.
Justification: The project will identify to a much higher level than previously the effects of the loss of the Tasmanian devil from the Tasmanian ecosystem. Project results will allow us to understand the changes in community population dynamics resulting from devil loss and also how these change genetic structure, which over time can result in loss of evolutionary resilience in some mesopredators and prey, and a rise in invasive mesopredators. The mechanistic knowledge generated by the black rat removal experiment will provide the necessary detail to intervene and manage potential loss of species and genetic diversity in the mammal community.
Maximum likely numbers of individuals involved:
Tasmanian devil (camera: 800); spotted-tailed quoll (camera: 400); eastern quoll (camera: 400; live-trapping 30, incidental–peanut butter bait); brushtail possum (camera: 2000; live-trapping 500); ringtail possum (camera: 400; live-trapping 30, incidental–strongly arboreal); eastern pygmy-possum (camera 200; live-trapping 30, incidental–strongly arboreal); brown bandicoot (camera: 500; live-trapping 500); eastern barred bandicoot (camera: 500; live-trapping 500); dusky antechinus (camera: 500; live-trapping 30, incidental–peanut butter bait); swamp rats (camera: 500; live-trapping 500); long-tailed mouse (camera: 250; live-trapping 200); black rat (camera: 2000; live-trapping 500; euthanise 200)
Activities undertaken and methods: The project involves camera trapping using a fish oil and seed mix lure (to maximise detection of small mammals) and live-trapping using peanut butter bait to estimate density and collect ear biopsies for genomics. Only for black rats: some will be euthanised as part of a removal experiment to investigate the competitive effect black rats have on swamp rats. Trapped black rats will be identified through morphological features. Euthanasia of black rats will be done on-site using standard procedures that are approved by the University of Tasmania Animal Ethics Committee.
Fate of animals: Animals will be released at point of capture following procedures. For black rat removal experiment at the Wellington Park only, black rats will be euthanised on-site and disposed of safely following UTas procedures.
Likely impact on species involved (including any by-catch): Minor impacts of disturbance through trapping and some pain from microchip insertion and genetic biopsy. Black rats will be euthanised in one aspect of the study, which is expected to have beneficial impacts on native rodents. Researchers are trained in all procedures and competency assessed for veterinary procedures (microchip insertion, ear biopsy) by the University Veterinarian.