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Tasmanian devils return to the wilds of Tasmania


The first Tasmanian devils born and raised on mainland Australia have been returned home to Tasmania and were set free on Maria Island yesterday.

The Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage, Brian Wightman, said the devils will now be able to breed naturally in the wild, protected from the deadly Devil Facial Tumour Disease that is ravaging the species on mainland Tasmania.

“The mainland devils were part of the captive insurance population, which now consists of well over 600 healthy devils across Australia and contains sufficient genetic diversity to guard against the species’ extinction due to the disease.

“Now that we have a robust insurance population, the next major step in combating the disease is to establish disease-free populations of devils in the wild,” he said.

Mr Wightman said that this is important for managing the insurance population and providing a critical safe-guard should devils become extinct in the wild on mainland Tasmania.

“The devils being released today were bred in captivity on the mainland at Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary in Victoria and Monarto Zoo in South Australia, and they’ve spent the past month in quarantine facilities at Halls Gap Zoo in Victoria.

“We are very grateful for the support of these institutions, which are amongst about 30 facilities around Australia working in partnership with the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program in the breeding and management of the insurance devils.

“The strong partnership developed with the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA) overall has been valuable for achieving the establishment and coordination of the insurance population.

“Today we have reached yet another milestone in the conservation program with the second major release of devils on Maria Island.

“The first release of 15 devils from the Tasmanian mainland took place last November, and the island population is now well established and the project is a success to date,” he said.

Mr Wightman said that the intention is for these mainland devils to adapt quickly to the wild environment and revert to instinctive devil behaviour.

“The eight males and six females are all aged between one and three years, and this is designed to mimic the age structure of a young natural population, with devils capable of dispersing, establishing homes and breeding.

“The island devil population will be monitored intensively over the coming months with regular trapping trips, remote camera surveillance, scat collection and track observations. 

“It will be managed over the coming years by the program with periodic introductions and removals of devils in order to maximise genetic diversity, as well as to manage any potential impact on the ecology of Maria Island,” he said.

“Surveys of native bird species and other native animals on the island will continue, enabling the program to be alerted to potential impacts and take action ahead of time,” Mr Wightman said.

Tasmanian devils return to the wilds of Tasmania

Phil Wise carries a devil from the plane after its arrival on Maria Island.

Tasmanian devils return to the wilds of Tasmania

Phil Wise and Sarah Peck of the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program set Boomer free.

Tasmanian devils return to the wilds of Tasmania

...and into the wild for the first time.