6 September 2012 by Luke McCormick
More than 50 heathy Tasmanian Devils are to be released on Maria Island off Tasmania's east coast over the next two years in a bid to ensure the survival of the species.
The program that begins in November may be the last chance of survival for the species as a facial tumour disease passed on when the animals bite each other ravages the devil population on the Tasmanian mainland.
The animals - the world's largest carnivorous marsupial - will be closely monitored using remote cameras, radio tracking and trapping.
In addition, guides and guests of national tourism award winner, The Maria Island Walk, will be keeping their eyes peeled for the notoriously shy devil so that they too can report progress.
Business owner Ian Johnstone says the walking guides are getting special training from Parks and Wildlife zoologists.
"We will be as well placed as any to catch sight of the devils," Johnstone said.
"Our small walking groups arrive daily on the island and travel quietly through the forests and along the tracks. If we don't see them, I reckon we will see where they have been. That's just as important."
The four-day walk is rated one of Australia's great natural experiences thanks to its unique location. A World Heritage former convict site within a state national park, it has become a Noah's Ark for some of Tasmania's most vulnerable wildlife species, including Flinders Island wombats, Forester kangaroos and Bennett wallabies.
Maria Island was once a penal colony, second only to Port Arthur in size. Today the island has a permanent population of two park rangers, 500 kangaroos, 500 rare Cape Barren geese, 400 wombats and half of the world's population of the forty-spotted pardalote bird. The pardalote, weighing only 10g, is one of the world's smallest rare birds and Maria Island is its stronghold.
The Maria Island Walk restricts its walking groups to ten guests and two guides. There are two permanent beachside camps (with comfortable beds) and the final night is spent in the Bernacchi House, a heritage building within the Darlington convict site (with four-posters).
A major drawcard is the fine Tasmanian cuisine and wines served each evening.