The Greens have pleaded for federal government intervention after a spate of bloody Tasmanian devil deaths on roads in the far north-west of the state.
According to locals, 10 devils were found dead in just five days at Woolnorth earlier this year, and about 30 in total since January.
Photographs obtained by the ABC show the dead devils in graphic detail. One’s head appears to have been turned 180 degrees.
Senator Peter Whish-Wilson said the photos had made him shocked and angry.
“This Woolnorth property is recognised as an insurance population and one of the last strongholds of healthy devils in Tasmania, and obviously these figures are shocking,” Senator Whish-Wilson said.
“We’re calling for a reinstatement of federal funding to the Save the Tasmanian Devil program and an immediate comprehensive study on what needs to be done.”
A Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment spokeswoman said the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program was “aware” of reports of devil roadkill at Woolnorth and had contacted Woolnorth Road’s owner – the Circular Head Council – to offer advice.
“Data collected by the program and other areas of state government … reveals a recurring annual spike in road-killed devils during the summer months throughout the state,” the spokeswoman said.
“This pattern is thought to occur because juvenile devils disperse from their mothers’ dens at this time of year, sometimes using roads to travel.
“All devil roadkill is of concern.”
The stretch of road on which the devils were killed sits adjacent to Van Dairy farms.
Chinese-owned company Moon Lake Investments pledged to help protect the local Tasmanian devil population before purchasing the former Van Diemen’s Land Company in 2016.
The company – which now operates locally as Van Dairy – could not be contacted for comment on Thursday.
Tasmanian Conservation Trust director Peter McGlone wrote to the Foreign Investment Review Board when it was considering Moon Lake’s acquisition to recommend the company be forced to commit to protecting the local devil population.
“Woolnorth is part of the far north-west of Tasmania and at the time – and I think it’s still the case – it had wild devils that are free of the [facial tumour] disease,” Mr McGlone said this week.
“That makes it critically important that you’ve got a naturally existing insurance population getting in.”
Mr McGlone said the company had instead been able to express support for a devil-proof fence.
The DPIPWE spokeswoman said Van Dairy did not make any contributions to its programs, but allowed staff on-site each year for devil monitoring.
Company not without controversy
Van Dairy has been plagued with controversy since it was acquired by Moon Lake Investments in 2016.
Chinese businessman Xianfeng Lu paid $280 million for the Van Diemen’s Land Company after its purchase was signed off by then-treasurer Scott Morrison.
In 2018, Moon Lake’s Australian chief executive and non-executive directors walked away from the company.
At the time, former state treasurer David Crean cited concerns Mr Lu had rejected a proposal to invest in infrastructure on the farms and had pitched a company restructure that would not work.
One year later, more than 20 senior management staff wrote to Mr Lu to complain they could not “deliver safe, quality dairy products” nor “ensure nor endorse [the company’s] animal welfare policies”.
The Tasmanian Dairy Industry Authority is now investigating Van Dairy over issues with effluent discharge.
“The TDIA continues to work with the company, the EPA, and other authorities to ensure compliance,” a spokeswoman for the authority said.
The federal environment minister was contacted for comment.