Wild Devil Recovery Project – wukalina/Mount William
It’s May and the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program is counting down the days until the next Wild Devil Recovery (WDR) Project here in Tasmania. We want to give you an update about where things are at with our plans to introduce wild devils from Maria Island into wukalina/Mount William in the state's north-east later this month.
This WDR release is different to the previous two releases at Narawntapu National Park and Stony Head. Pending animal ethics approvals we will be trialling whether different release techniques produce different outcomes. Some devils will be flown from Maria Island to wukalina/Mount William and housed in a pen for 7-10 days before the pen is opened and they are released. Other devils will be flown from Maria in their traps and released later on the same day that they arrive.
Logistically this is a huge undertaking – more than 30 devils, three teams of up to 17 people in total, and six vehicles over several days and multiple sites, so please forgive us if we are slow to reply to emails over the next month!
On Maria Island, wild devils will be trapped, given a quick physical check and placed in a devil trap before being flown by light plane for their release at wukalina/Mount William. This operation will take place from 16-29 May and involves detailed planning to ensure everything runs smoothly on both Maria Island and at the release sites.
All the devils chosen for this translocation are being selected from our insurance population on Maria Island. Devils will be selected based on the overall numbers, their age, their sex, their genetics and their behaviour. Our team is working with Carolyn Hogg from Sydney University to make these decisions - a fantastic, tangible example of one of our many close partnerships in action in the field.
We also will soon welcome Monarto Zoo keeper Simon Dower to Maria Island to run the husbandry of the devils held in pens on the island prior to boarding the plane.
At wukalina/Mount William, our staff and vets will be giving each release devil a vet check, monitoring the devils pre-release, giving them an individual bleach mark on their rump for identification on cameras and fitting some of the animals with GPS collars so we can track where they go and gather data on how they fare in the wild. We will bring you updates of devil movements and real time graphs of the devils’ dispersal.
Our teams in the north-east will be joined by Ruth Pye from the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania for the immunisation trial of a drug that may assist the long-term survival of devils in the wild. This is part of ongoing work with our partner organisations and researchers to develop potential vaccines against the Devil Facial Tumour Disease.
As with previous WDR releases, roadkill remains a threat to devils and our mitigation includes working closely with local councils at Break O’Day and Dorset, and the Department of State Growth, to erect road signs urging people to slow down between dusk and dawn. We are also pleased to be working with Tasmania Police to help spread the slow down message and thanks to a grant from the Wildcare Saffire Devil Fund we are installing more of the virtual fence devices that have been used alongside roads in other parts of the state.
Other mitigation includes reflective tape on collars, feeding by hand (not vehicles) and aversion training as designed by Healesville and San Diego Zoo Global scientists. For the initial two-week period following release, when devils are particularly vulnerable to roadkill, we will also have variable message boards to ask people to be particularly wary on the roads at night.
A big thank you to the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service for helping us with facilities and specific tasks both on Maria Island and at wukalina/Mount William. We are grateful for their ongoing assistance.
Overall, our teams have been busy - both up and about in the north-east, assessing sites and meeting the local community, landowners, business and industry to help plan for this translocation, and on Maria Island identifying and marking juvenile devils (those born in 2016) in readiness for the release.
Finally, thank you for your interest in the Wild Devil Recovery Project and for helping us on the journey to where we are at today. We are proud of everyone’s efforts to date as we explore ways to rebuild disease-affected devil populations in the wild.
Remember, you can keep up to date on the work of the Save the Tasmania Devil Program by visiting us at on this website, or on our Facebook page.
The images this update help us tell the story so far:
Construction of the pens that will be used to house devils at wukalina/Mount William, arrival of the GPS collars that our teams will use to track the devils post-release.
- Road signs being transported thanks to Tas Freight where they will be installed on roads around the release area reminding drivers to take care while driving at night by slowing down between dusk and dawn.