Since the discovery of the contagious cancer Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD), wild populations of Tasmanian devils have been decimated in Tasmania.
In 2005 the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA) began working in partnership with the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program (STDP), an initiative of the Tasmanian government, in maintaining captive populations of Tasmanian devils (an insurance population). The aim of the insurance population was to establish and maintain a population of healthy, genetically diverse Tasmanian devils that maintain their wild traits and are able to be successfully released into the wild when required.
As of May 2013, over 500 disease free Tasmanian devils representing over 98% of the genetic diversity within the species, were being held as an insurance population in 21 zoos and wildlife parks throughout Australia. The Program also contributes a significant number of devils to the insurance population in Tasmania through its two captive breeding facilities, three Devil Islands and the translocated population on Maria Island.
The ZAA member wildlife parks and zoos participating in the insurance population are:
- Adelaide Zoo (SA)
- Altina Wildlife Park (NSW)
- Australia Zoo (QLD)
- Australian Reptile Park (NSW)
- Australian Walkabout Wildlife Park (NSW)
- Ballarat Wildlife Park (VIC)
- Cleland Wildlife Park (SA)
- Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary (QLD)
- Devil Ark (NSW)
- Devils@Cradle (TAS)
- Dreamworld (QLD)
- Featherdale Wildlife Park (NSW)
- George Wildlife Park (SA)
- Halls Gap Zoo (VIC)
- Healesville Sanctuary (VIC)
- Lone Pine Koala Park (QLD)
- Melbourne Zoo (VIC)
- Monarto Zoo (SA)
- Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park (VIC)
- Peel Zoo (WA)
- Perth Zoo (WA)
- Symbio Wildlife Park (NSW)
- Taronga Western Plains Zoo (NSW)
- Taronga Zoo (NSW)
- Trowunna Wildlife Park (TAS)
ZAA is working in partnership with with the Program to ensure that the contribution to the insurance population made by its members is managed to the standards of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The Program’s Species Coordinator, who is based at ZAA, coordinates the insurance population and advises on the movements of devils between each of the facilities annually so as to achieve specific breeding outcomes for the whole insurance population.
This partnership between the Zoo and Aquarium Association and the Tasmanian government and along with the contribution made by each participating ZAA members, has been crucial to the success of the Program in guarding against the species’ extinction.