Extinction is not an option for our little Tassie devils

LITTLE DEVIL: Angel the Tassie Devil. Picture: Ruth Hardy

LITTLE DEVIL: Angel the Tassie Devil. Picture: Ruth Hardy

Three years ago, I wrote about the Devil Ark project in the Barrington Tops, set up to save the species from a facial tumour which is transmitted from one Tasmanian Devil to another when they fight and bite. 

In Tasmania, the population had been decimated by this tumour which was first reported in 1996 and since then, the Devil as a species has almost become extinct. I am very pleased to report that good planning, good animal care and good people have led to a successful breeding program in this cold part of the Hunter hinterland. Congratulations to Tim Faulkner who was recognised as Australian Geographic Conservationist of the Year 2015 for his pioneering work. 

Devil Ark also serves as a work-experience training centre for TAFE students studying the Captive Animals Certificate. They learn about trapping, handling, internal and external parasite prevention, vaccinations and microchip and the importance of health recording processes that are maintained for each devil. They also experience the maybe less exciting work of digging trenches for enclosures.

The initial aim to breed Tasmanian Devils free of the facial tumour and then release these disease-free devils back to Tasmania has been achieved.  Since November 2015 there have been several releases. Unfortunately, some have succumbed to motor vehicles, but during annual monitoring at Narawntapu National Park, five juveniles and sixadults were trapped and checked. They were all considered to be healthy and free of facial tumour. Two of the adult females had young in their pouches. The motto “extinction is not an option” is the catchcry of all. Become a Devil Ark Advocate and help conserve this iconic little Australian mammalL info@devilark.org.au .

Professor Tim Roberts is the director of the Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment, University of Newcastle. With thanks to Ruth Hardy Chair, Devil Ark Advocates, and Margaret Williams TFI.