Tasmanian devils have lived on the Forestier and Tasman Peninsulas since before European settlement, albeit in very low numbers. In 2004, when Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD) was first detected on the Forestier, the population had grown to around 250 devils with most living on Forestier and a few living on the Tasman.
Map of Forestier and Tasman Peninsula
Between 2005 and 2010 the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program (STDP) attempted to halt the disease on the Peninsula by trapping and removing infected devils. However this proved ineffective and in 2012 the decision was made to remove all the remaining devils from the Forestier. A total of 35 devils were removed from Forestier during May 2012 and those without DFTD were transferred into our captive breeding program.
Wildlife Biologist Stewart Huxtable releasing Tasmanian devil Moose
From 2012 to 2015 intensive monitoring by the program showed that no devils, and hence no DFTD, remained on the Forestier, and that DFTD was not present in the small population of 20 to 30 devils living on the Tasman. Additional measures such as fencing and wildlife deterrents have been installed near Dunalley to reduce the risk of devils moving onto the Peninsula and bringing DFTD with them.
In the summer of 2015-16, 49 devils were reintroduced to Forestier, including some of the “grandchildren” of devils removed in 2012!
Dunalley buffer intertidal fence
Despite the loss of a significant number (30%) of the release devils through roadkill, monitoring indicates the population has re-established and has been breeding successfully. The Peninsula is now an incredibly special place for devils as it harbors the only bio-secure population of wild-living devils within their natural range (there were no devils on Maria Island
prior to their introduction in 2012).
The Dunbabin family releasing a devil on their property Bangor.
copyright: Matt and Vanessa Dunbabin
The devils released onto the Peninsula were sourced from captive managed facilities and STDP has since learned that the longer devils spend in captivity (there have been more than four generations born in captivity in the insurance population), the greater the chance of them being hit by vehicles. Roadkill mitigation strategies now involve only translocating wild-born devils from Maria Island.
Tasmanian devil imps suckling from mum
The devil population on the Peninsula is managed as part of the Tasmanian devil insurance meta-population
* and will be supplemented with additional devils to increase and maintain genetic diversity.
Once the population has grown to around 150 individuals, some of the Peninsula devils can then be translocated to key sites around the state to bolster local devil population numbers but also improve genetic diversity in small populations that are genetically depauperate**.
Wildlife Biologist Bill Brown holding Kelly named after Kellys Islets off Lagoon Bay. Kelly was one of the first generation born to the devils on Forestier Peninsula.
Another benefit of these releases is to the Tasmanian ecosystem, by increasing the number of devils in the wild, we help the devil to fulfill its ecological niche as a top order carnivore.
*known as the meta-population because it includes devils held in captive facilities, on Maria Island and the Forestier Peninsula.
**Depauperate is a term used to describe the devastating impact of DFTD on the genetic diversity and abundance of devils in populations that have had DFTD present for many years – similar to decimate or much reduced.
Lachish S, McCallum H, Mann D, Pukk CE, Jones ME (2010) Evaluation of selective culling of infected individuals to control Tasmanian devil facial tumor disease. Conservation Biology 24, 841–851.
Beeton N, McCallum H (2011) Models predict that culling is not a feasible strategy to prevent extinction of Tasmanian devils from facial tumour disease. Journal of Applied Ecology 48, 1315-1323.
Huxtable SJ, Lee DV, Wise P, the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program (2015) Metapopulation management of an extreme disease scenario. In Advances in Reintroduction Biology of Australian and New Zealand Fauna. (Eds D Armstrong and M Hayward) pp. 141–154. CSIRO Publishing, Clayton, Victoria.
Rout TM, Baker CM, Huxtable S, Wintle BA (2017) Monitoring, imperfect detection, and risk optimization of a Tasmanian devil insurance population. Conservation Biology doi:10.1111/cobi.12975
Grueber, C.E., Reid-Wainscoat, E.E., Fox, S., Belov, K., Shier, D.M., Hogg, C.J. et al. (2017). Increasing generations in captivity is associated with increased vulnerability of Tasmanian devils to vehicle strike following release to the wild. Scientific Reports, 7, 2161.