donate link to home page link to home page about the disease Save the Tasmanian devil. Devil Facial Tumouir Disease threatens the existence of this internationally-recognised icon. In some areas more than 90% of the Tasmanian devil population has been wiped out.

Interlinked strategies for Insurance Population

A series of interlinked conservation activities to build on the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program’s Insurance Strategy were proposed by an international workshop held in Hobart in July, 2008.

The Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) was flown in from the US by the Taronga Conservation Society to facilitate the workshop, which used the collective knowledge of scientists, habitat managers, researchers, wildlife agencies, universities, zoos, traditional land managers, and State and Federal Governments to further develop the insurance population strategy in place for the program.

"Our aim has been to develop strategies on top of those already in place that will ensure the survival of the Tasmanian devil in the wild through building on ‘insurance’ populations to protect them from the disease," said Dr Onnie Byers, CBSG executive director.

"This has been a particularly complex process in that our computer modelling is predicting that there is no single action that may save Tasmanian devils, therefore a range of targeted conservation activities is essential.

"This group of experts has devised a series of interlinking programs that can be implemented simultaneously to protect devils in their wild habitats and also preserve the genetic diversity of the species."

The workshop was hosted by the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE), and funded by the Taronga Conservation Society Australia.

"Through the CBSG process, we’ve assessed a combination of solutions, from zoo-based ‘insurance’ breeding programs on the mainland and away from the disease, to large protected areas where devils can be managed to maintain their genetic health," said Dr Rebecca Spindler, the head of Taronga’s conservation and research.

"We’ve also looked at the possibility of fencing or allocating areas where disease-free wild populations can be protected.

"These comprehensive, linked plans have been formulated to guide immediate action for devils and will now be presented to the Tasmanian State and Federal governments for their endorsement."

It is only the second time this conservation planning process has been used in Australia. The first, a success, was for the Striped Legless Lizard.

CBSG has an impressive track record and has coordinated plans for the recovery of the critically endangered Red Wolf in the US and Tree Kangaroo in Papua New Guinea.