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Changing of the Guard

Steve Yates
Pastels and pastel pencils on pastel paper • 83 × 103.5 cm

I have found, when travelling around Tasmania during the last few years, more and more forest ravens (Corvus Tasmanicus) scavenging roadkill. The increasing number of forest ravens has seen a change in our Tasmanian fauna landscape. This has occurred with the decline in Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) numbers. In fact, 80% of the wild Devil population has been reduced by the facial tumour. Disease free Tasmanian Devils which have been released into the wild have, unfortunately, become roadkill.
Tasmanian Devils were the pre-eminent and efficient scavenger; however, Forest ravens have now become the dominant scavenger in Tasmania. Forest ravens forage in pairs or groups of up to ten birds, though they may gather in much larger numbers if there is an abundant food source, such as a large carcass.

This painting represents the changing Tasmanian landscape with both the obvious road cutting through the middle of the scenery as well as the subtle way nature changes. Presenting these concepts in a quirky, picture postcard way underscores the irony of the ravens scavenging a recent roadkill – a Tasmanian Devil. For the viewer, it appears that the Ravens are casting an accusing eye as if in an Edgar Allan Poe poem.