Earlier this month the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program (STDP) translocated 26 Tasmanian devils from Maria Island to the Buckland Military Training Area as part of the program’s Wild Devil Recovery Project.
The released devils, descendants of animals bred as part of a species management program lead by the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA), comprised of 15 males and 11 females with 7 of the females having pouch young. The animals were all vaccinated with an immunisation developed by Menzies Institute for Medical Research prior to release and ranged in age from 2 to 4 years of age.
Dr Sam Fox, Team Leader for the STDP said the operation went extremely smoothly and all animals released were in good health.
“Feed stations, remote sensing cameras, and microchip scanning stations have been deployed by the devil program to passively monitor the released devils and provide them with some food security during the important first weeks of release as they become familiar with the new environment. The Annual Monitoring trapping trip to Buckland will also enable the program’s wildlife biologists to check that released devils are doing okay in those first important weeks”, Sam said.
Dr Carolyn Hogg, from University of Sydney Faculty of Science, University of Sydney said animals were chosen depending on their genetics (specifically who their parents were and heterozygosity scores) as well as their age, gender and behaviour.
“It’s important to try and release a balanced group of devils but at the same time we want to ensure that the animals who remain on Maria Island are also a well-balanced and sustainable cohort. Choosing the animals is quite a complicated exercise”.
The release of devils back into the wild in Tasmania is important to the recovery of the species as it will not only boost devil population numbers, but also improve genetic diversity in small populations that have been genetically decimated.
Another benefit of these releases is to the Tasmanian ecosystem, as increasing the number of devils in the wild will help the devil to fulfill its ecological niche as a top-order carnivore. The translocations also keeps the Maria Island population at a sustainable level both from a genetics point of view and numbers on the island.
With the devils now settling into their new home we would also like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that Tasmanian devils can travel up to 20km in one night so released devils may travel to Orford, Triabunna, Woodsdale or Little Swanport.
Everyone can help by taking care while driving at night and slowing down between dusk and dawn.
Tasmanian devils are very hard to see against a black road surface, particularly when it is wet. We also encourage people to report any devil sightings to the Devil Hotline 0497 DEVILS (0497 338 457).
For more information about the Wild Devil Recovery Project please visit http://dpipwe.tas.gov.au/…/abou…/wild-devil-recovery-project