The crucial role of captive breeding

The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program (STTDP) is an initiative of the Tasmanian government. A governing steering committee, comprised of national and state representatives, coordinates research and conservation efforts, while maintaining a highly informative website at www.tassiedevil.com.au.

A vital component of the STTDP strategy is the establishment of captive populations of Tasmanian devils. Under the coordination of the international conservation body, IUCN, and the peak Australian zoo body, Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA – formerly known as ARAZPA), a captive management strategy has been developed and implemented that includes a vital mainland component. The aim of the arising ‘insurance population’ is to establish and maintain a population of healthy, genetically diverse Tasmanian devils that can sustain a harvest of individuals for successful release into the wild when required.

Constructing the perimeter fencing

Constructing the perimeter fencing

Fence construction

Fence construction

 

The first stage of the insurance population has been the highly successful establishment of an intensively managed component, comprised of 250 Tasmanian devils held among 18 zoos and fauna parks, both on the mainland and in Tasmania. The Australian Reptile Park has provided a leadership role in the development of the ‘intensive’ population, reaching a population of 65 devils in 2010.

In addition to the ‘intensive’ component of the meta-population (which appears likely to peak at a holding capacity of approximately 300-400 spaces), at least 500 devils are intended to comprise the second stage of the meta-population strategy: the so called ‘free-range enclosure’ developments, as first proposed as 'Devil Ranch’ (subsequently re-named ‘Devil Ark’) by the Australian Reptile Park in 2006, and formally proposed to the STTDP in mid-2008. Devil Ark is intended to contain 360 devils by 2016 at a Barrington Tops, NSW property with scope to expand to whatever population is required by the STTDP in the future.

The ARP ‘intensive’ breeding facility remains the most successful in the STTD program, producing over 50 young to date.

'Lucky Devils' maintained at the Australian Reptile Park in Somersby, NSW, a precursor to Devil Ark.

The first mainland insurance population joeys (produced at ARP in 2007) at four months of age

The first mainland insurance population joeys (produced at the Australian Reptile Park in 2007) at four months of age

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