MORE than 1000 Tasmanian devils are expected to live in the Barrington Tops in 10 years time.
The rapidly growing population is the result of the Devil Ark breeding program, which was opened yesterday. The program, established on 500 hectares of land donated by the Packer family, aims to establish a population free of the contagious devil facial tumour disease.
Click below to see pictures of the Tasmanian devils by the Herald's Jonathan Carroll, and hear Jonathan's interview with devil keeper Adrian Good.
The disease has reduced Tasmania's devil population from 200,000 to 20,000 over 15 years.
The Barrington Tops was chosen for the project because it closely mimics conditions in the devils' native environment. After years of planning, the Devil Ark program began this year with the release of 43 devils in January.
The population is expected to have doubled by December.
For more pictures by Jonathan Carroll, click on the image above.
"This is part of a concerted effort to establish an insurance population to preserve the genetic variation of the Tasmanian devil for 30 years," Devil Ark founder John Weigel said.
"We're looking at 360 devils by 2016 . . . we may eventually grow to the potential of 1500 animals."
The state government announced $600,000 over four years to help maintain the breeding grounds.
Peter Lewis' view
Environment Minister Robyn Parker said the Devil Ark project provided a sustainable model for large free-range enclosures.
"Once the centre reaches a devil population of 200, the cost to keep each devil per year will drop to just $900, well below some zoo costs associated with keeping the animals," she said.