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Annual Monitoring Program - Update

The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program (STDP) is pleased to report that our 2017 annual monitoring program has been completed.

Developed in 2014, the aim of the annual monitoring program is to understand the status of the wild Tasmanian devil population and look for any change over time to enable informed decisions on in-situ conservation strategies.

Thanks to the funding and support of The Toledo Zoo we are able to collect from eight different sites, long-term population data including abundance, age and sex structure, and disease prevalence.

Clare Lawrence, coordinator of the annual monitoring program, reports on the key findings for 2017:
  • While most sites are staying fairly static or declining (Takone), the devil population at Fentonbury appears to be recovering.
  • The Granville Harbour population has remained stable despite the first detection of Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) during the 2015 Annual Monitoring survey. Two years on however it appears the age structure is beginning to break down, with a relatively low proportion of older animals trapped compared to previous years. This result is consistent with other diseased sites, where many animals contract DFTD and die before they reach 3 years of age.
  • Surveying sites annually allows us to follow some individual devils across years, so we can identify individuals that are not “behaving normally”. For example, a female devil trapped at Fentonbury in 2016 with signs of DFTD, was recaptured in 2017. This is an exceptional length of time for a devil to survive after presenting with gross evidence of DFTD, and analysis of the genetics of the devil and her tumour might provide some important insights into devil immunity and tumour evolution.

Overall information gathered from our annual monitoring program has found that devils are persisting in the landscape and are coexisting with DFTD. It is now apparent that DFTD is part of the devils’ ecology and the data collected from these monitoring trips are vital in guiding the management decisions of the STDP into the future.

We would also like to acknowledge the important work of our collaborators in the annual monitoring program:
  • Dr Elizabeth Murchison from University of Cambridge who is looking at DFTD tumour evolution; 
  • Associate Professor Michelle Powers from Macquarie University who is looking at parasites in wild vs captive devils, and; 
  • Professor Kathy Belov at University of Sydney whose laboratory is looking at the devils microbiome and immune systems.

Annual Monitoring Fast Facts

Since 2014 the annual monitoring team has:

 

  • conducted 2,240 trap nights
  • trapped, checked and measured 1,207 Tasmanian devils
  • taken countless genertic, timour, scat and blood samples 
 
This Page/Clare-with-large-audience.jpg This Page/4-month-old-pouch-young.jpg This Page/Clare-Lawrence-and-devil.jpg
 
This Page/Health-check.jpg This Page/Diseased-devil-at-Narawntap.jpg This Page/Intern-Lorette-releases-a-d.jpg
 
Images (L-R; top-bottom)

Annual Monitoring Program coordinator Clare and volunteer Jason working in front of a large audience
4-month old pouch young
Annual Monitoring Program coordinator Clare releasing a devil 
Health check of a Tasmania devil
Diseased devil at Narawntapu National Park
Volunteer Lorette releases a devil at Woolnorth in the State's north-west