Wild Devil Recovery
While the threat to the Tasmanian devil due to Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) continues to spread through wild populations in Tasmania, significant advances in the Insurance Population and protecting isolated devil populations, are enabling the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program to commence a new phase in the species' conservation - focussing on recovery in the wild.
On 23 November 2014 the Tasmanian Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage Matthew Groom, announced a refocusing of the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program towards population monitoring, field research, and research and development into possible immunisation techniques. This initiative is to be supported with funding from the Australian Government. The Wild Devil Recovery Project commenced in late 2014 and the role of
the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program (STDP) has been to explore ways to
rebuild disease-affected populations and establish wild devil recovery
zones across Tasmania.
The work involves gaining a better understanding of the status and condition of wild devil populations, development of options to reduce other threats to Tasmanian devils (such as road kill), engagement with community groups and key stakeholders to mitigate threats, and the development of techniques to successfully reintroduce devils into existing wild populations.
This project directly addresses key actions 1, 2, 4 and 5 in the draft Recovery Plan (DPIPWE in progress) through the development of techniques to manage diseased populations of devils in the wild in Tasmania and a significant trial of immunisation strategies for use in wild population management.
The project is comprised of four main elements:
- North-east devil population assessment
- Strategies to rebuild wild populations
- Field trials of immunisation viability in devils, and
- Wild devil management.
On 18 November 2015, 39 healthy Tasmanian devils were released on the Forestier Peninsula to re-establish a wild population of devils free of the deadly Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) in Tasmania’s south east. In 2004, DFTD was detected on the Forestier Peninsula and after an unsuccessful attempt was made to remove the infected devils. In 2012 the entire area was depopulated to ensure it was disease-free and natural barriers have been augmented to stop the movement of diseased animals back into the area. Some of the devils released on the Forestier Peninsula on 18 November 2015 are descendants of animals removed in the depopulation.
The release on Forestier Peninsula follows the release of 48 disease-free devils on Maria Island and Narawntapu National Park over the past three years.
The Narawntapu translocation took place in September 2015 and the devils involved are part of a field trial to effectively test the immunisation response against DFTD and to help refine and develop more effective vaccination techniques in the future. The project is also aimed at developing release techniques that optimise the survival and retention of devils at the release site.
Stony Head in the state's north-east will become the latest site to be involved in the WDR project with 33 devils being released on 30 August 2016. Several new aspects are being trialled as part of this release including fitting the majority of devils with a GPS collar for a short period to help with monitoring post-release, allowing devil movements to be monitored hourly and daily. The devils will also be trapped and monitored at regular periods as per previous WDR trial releases.
The STDP is also referring to the past WDR releases to inform the logistics of this latest trial at Stony Head. This includes taking mitigation steps to reduce the number of released devils being killed from being hit by cars on nearby roads.
These mitigation steps include:
- Positioning feed stations at different locations on the site to ease into the transition from captive-to-wild living and reducing the desire to disperse;
- Working with the George Town and Dorset Councils to install signage on nearby roads reminding drivers to slow down;
- Having Virtual Fencing on standby to be deployed as a device to alert wildlife to oncoming traffic - thus scaring the animals off the road before being hit by a vehicle; and
- Researching options in an effort to train captive-bred devils to be more afraid of cars.
The release of the devils is an important new phase in ongoing efforts to save the Tasmanian devil in the wild.
Peninsula Devil Conservation Project Brochure - Creating a Wild Devil Recovery Zone (2.97 MB)
Wild Devil Recovery Project Stony Head Flyer.pdf (192 kb)