Wild Devil Recovery Project – wukalina / Mount William
A number of wild Tasmanian devils will be released into wukalina / Mount William, 20 years after the devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) was first detected.
wukalina / Mount William in the state's north-east will become the latest site to be involved in the Wild Devil Recovery (WDR) project. Wild Devil Recovery is a trial to look at release techniques and vaccination efficacy to boost immunity to DFTD. This will be the third WDR trial in Tasmania with the previous ones taking place at Narawntapu National Park in September 2015 and Stony Head in August 2016.
The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program (STDP) is planning to introduce a number of devils into wukalina / Mount William to live with existing devil populations in May 2017. One of the challenges facing the STDP is developing effective strategies to reinforce and rebuild wild devil populations in areas where the devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) is present. Focused field research and management trials enable the Program to develop and implement effective actions to rebuild wild devil populations. Devils from the wild on Maria Island will be translocated to wukalina / Mount William with some being fitted with satellite-linked GPS collars for a short period to help with monitoring post-release. This will allow their movements to be monitored hourly and daily so we can better observe the devils as they make their way in the new landscape. The devils will also be trapped and their health checked at regular periods as per previous WDR releases. Preliminary data from previous WDR releases have shown that wild Tasmanian devils fare better upon release than captive bred/raised ones. This could be attributed to the fact that wild devils have retained important wild-type behaviours.
One of the key aspects being looked at with this release is whether hard-release or soft-release pens have a better outcome for survival when devils are released back into the wild. A hard release strategy transports the devil to the release site in a trap and then the trap door is opened to allow the devil to leave. A soft release strategy transports the devil to the release site in a trap but the animal is then released into a pen for 5-10 days and then the door is opened so the devils can leave when they feel like it. While studies suggest that for some species soft-release pens will often have a better outcome for the animals released, wild devils being taken from Maria Island may have a negative reaction to being contained in pens.
The devils are being prepared for release both by the STDP and the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at UTAS and all will be vaccinated. This is a trial and as such, the Program is continually learning - each translocation brings forward new and important information regarding the efficacy of immunization and release techniques. San Diego Zoo Global are assisting with the soft release pen trials.
The Program is also referring to past WDR releases to inform the logistics of this latest trial at wukalina / Mount William. Research from previous translocations indicate that released devils can disperse up to 20km from the release site, consequently devils released at wukalina / Mount William may travel to Ansons Bay, Blue Tier or as far as tebrakunna / Cape Portland. Developing roadkill mitigation strategies to reduce the number of released devils being killed from being hit by cars on nearby roads is a high priority and some of the strategies being implemented by the Program include:
- Talking to and working with local communities to identify areas/roads of concern;
- Placing bait stations to try and keep devils close to the release site;
- Working closely with the Dorset and Break O'Day councils to erect road warning signs asking people to be aware of wildlife and to slow down between dusk and dawn;
- Assessing roads for possible roadkill 'hotspots' where devils may be likely to cross and installing Virtual Fence devices which alert wildlife to oncoming traffic - thus scaring the animals off the road before being hit by a vehicle;
- Installing LED trailer mounted active signs near the release site to remind drivers to be aware of wildlife at night;
- Liaising with local councils about clearing roadkill off the road;
- Distributing brochures and talking to local community members and businesses about the wukalina / Mount William release;
- Attaching reflective tape on the GPS collars;
- Applying bleach marks to the released devils to make them more visible and;
- Avoiding times of year when traffic volumes are higher, for the release (i.e. around public holidays)
The Program keeps data of all Tasmanian devil roadkill reports. Reports can be made online at www.tassiedevil.com.au or you can send a message (and photo if possible) to our hotline 0427 733 511. Everyone can help by taking care while driving at night and slowing down between dusk and dawn as Tasmanian devils are very hard to see against a black road surface, particularly when it is wet.
The STDP is a joint response by the Australian and Tasmanian Governments to the threat of the Tasmanian devil from DFTD. We are committed to establishing an enduring and ecologically functioning population of Tasmanian devils in the wild. The program is supported by a range of partners including the Save the Tasmanian Devil Appeal, Menzies Institute for Medical Research, Devil Islands Project, San Diego Zoo Global and the Zoological and Aquarium Association of Australasia (ZAA) and its wildlife parks.
WDR wukalina Mount William release brochure.pdf (220 kb)