We can now celebrate the birth of seven adult Tasmanian devils released last year in a 400 hectare wild sanctuary for the first time in history .
Tasmanian devils completely disappeared from mainland Australia in large part because they were outnumbered by introduced dingoes (a subspecies of wolf), which hunt in packs.
Devil’s facial tumor disease
Dingoes never made it to Tasmania, but across the island state, a communicable, painful and deadly disease called Tasmanian Devil Facial Uumor (DFTD), the only known contagious cancer, decimated up to 90 percent of the wild population of Tasmanian devils. Currently, there are only 25,000 demons left in the wild in Tasmania .
First observed in 1996, the Tasmanian devil facial tumor (Devil facial tumor disease, DFTD) has devastated the population of this species, with an estimated reduction of more than 60% of its individuals between 1996 and 2010, and more 80% between 1996 and 2016.
Of the 26 adult Tasmanian devils released in 2020, seven were breeding females . Initial checks on the bag showed that they appear to be in good health and developing normally. The Aussie Ark rangers will continue to monitor the mother demons via camera traps and conduct follow-up checks in the coming weeks. Aussie Ark estimates that 20 Tasmanian devils will be born in the wild this year.
Aussie Ark selected the 26 demons to be reintroduced based on the ones best suited to breed with each other without inbreeding. The wild sanctuary prevents the spread of disease, wild pests, noxious weeds and fire, which was catastrophic last year for the country. The wild sanctuary also keeps cars out , ensuring the devils learn not to associate cars with food, an association that could be deadly when more widely distributed.
The Aussie Ark Tasmanian Devil breeding program is the most successful conservation breeding facility for endangered species in mainland Australia . Aussie Ark founded a Tasmanian devil breeding program in 2011 with 44 individuals. Today, it is home to more than 200, which is roughly 50 percent of the entire captive insurance population spread across mainland Australia. Over the years, more than 390 demons have been born and raised in the Aussie Ark in a way that encourages their natural behaviors, helping to ensure that they maintain all the skills they need to survive in the wild.