Overview | Insurance Population members | Free Range Enclosures (FREs) | Landscape Isolation and Island Translocations | Insurance Population news |
The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program began to establish an Insurance Population of Tasmanian devils in 2005, gathering animals from areas of the State where there had not been evidence of DFTD. The Insurance Population is designed to ensure the survival of the species and Insurance Population animals could play an important role, if ever needed, in helping to re-establish healthy wild populations in Tasmania.
The Insurance Population concept and parameters grew out of an international workshop held in Hobart in July 2008. Read more
On advice from the Captive Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) and the Zoo and Aquarium Association, the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program has determined that it needs an effective Insurance Population of around 500 breeding devils to maintain the genetic diversity and behavioural integrity of the species over a period of 50 years. This target number is only required in the event that no disease free Tasmanian devils are available to supplement the Insurance Population. This may mean having as many as 1,500 devils being intensively managed in captivity - a massive task.
Tasmanian devils in the Insurance Population were initially isolated and housed in purpose-built quarantine enclosures before being sent to wildlife institutions in mainland Australia approved by the Zoo and Aquarium Association. The decision to remove Tasmanian devils to the mainland of Australia was based on the need to ensure that we had a healthy population of devils that was at absolutely no risk of infection from diseased wild devils. As it became clear that DFTD was not airborne, and therefore the risk of infection to captive populations was much lower than first thought, the Program instituted a locally-based Insurance Population that is housed at facilities in Tasmania.
As at January 2010, the Insurance Population had grown to 277 disease-free Tasmanian devils and by June 2012, the Program had reached the goal of 500 animals representing over 98% of the species genetic diversity. This national conservation effort has only been possible because of the expertise and passion of the zoos and wildlife parks that have expended a great deal of time and resources in setting up and maintaining Insurance Population facilities. To date the Insurance Population consists of Zoo and Aquarium Association members, which insures that the population is managed to the standards of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Insurance Population members
The Program's Insurance Population currently comprises:
Free Range Enclosures (FREs)
Free Range Enclosures (FREs) are one of the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program's favoured options for an economically and behaviourally sustainable alternative to intensive management. The devils housed in the FREs are a benefit to the Insurance Population because they tend to retain wild behaviours because of their less intensive management. There was very little known about managing Tasmanian devils in this way so the Program's experts began working through issues relating to the size of the enclosures, den construction, food sources and the numbers and sex ratio of animals to house for the best outcome. The first of the Devil Island FREs was constructed on land donated by the Devil Island Project in 2008. In partnership with Devil Island Project, the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program constructed two new FREs in 2010 and a third in 2012.
Landscape Isolation and Island Translocations
The Program is exploring options and implementing projects to isolate and protect populations of healthy devils within the landscape. The first translocation of a population of Tasmanian devils to Maria Island, an off-shore island on Tasmania's East Coast, took place in November 2012. Maria Island was chosen as the first island translocation for a number of reasons, including its large area, the fact that the habitat appears to be suitable for Tasmanian devils and that it is solely managed by the State Government.
The Program is also looking at the feasibility of ‘virtual islands' - fencing off peninsulas or other geographically suitable areas of land in Tasmania. A feasibility study has been undertaken to isolate a healthy population of Tasmanian devils in the State's far North West and projects are underway to establish healthy populations on the Tasman, Forestier and Freycinet Peninsulas. These geographical landscapes lend themselves for use as virtual islands for the protection of healthy populations or for the reintroduction of healthy animals to areas that have been decimated by Devil Facial Tumour Disease.
Insurance Population News