Annual monitoring completed for another year
The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program’s annual monitoring project has concluded for another year, with surveys conducted at eight sites across Tasmania.
We also collect genetic samples and samples of DFTD tumours for external collaborators including researchers at the University of Cambridge in the UK and the University of Sydney.
Starting in 2014, the project was developed to monitor a selection of devil populations over time so we can identify any changes in population status or demographics. The knowledge gained can be used to inform decisions on management strategies. During each survey we collect data on devil abundance, the age and sex structure of the population, and the prevalence of disease.
Tasmanian devil trapped at Bronte receiving a full vet check
The results from the 2018 surveys were broadly consistent with previous years. Key findings for 2018 include:
While most populations are staying fairly static (Bronte, Buckland, Kempton, Granville Harbour and Woolnorth) or declining (Takone), the Fentonbury population has continued to increase, despite the presence of DFTD.
A surprising number of healthy, old animals were trapped in diseased sites. These included five-year-old animals at Narawntapu, Takone, Granville and Kempton, as well as a seven-year-old male ‘Boots’ who was released into Narawntapu National Park in 2015. For the first time since 2014, four-year-old devils were trapped at Fentonbury and Bronte.
A devil from Bronte who was trapped in 2017 with DFTD was re-trapped in 2018 with no sign of any tumours. Tumour regression has been recorded occasionally and we cannot be sure that the devil is now DFTD-free, but this is an exciting example of how the interaction between devils and DFTD can be more complex than it often appears.
Overall information gathered from our annual monitoring program has found that devils are persisting in the landscape and are coexisting with DFTD. It is now apparent that DFTD is part of the devils’ ecology and the data collected from these monitoring trips is vital in guiding the management decisions of the STDP into the future.
We gratefully acknowledge funding and support from Toledo Zoo, and the important work of our collaborators including:
- Dr Elizabeth Murchison from University of Cambridge who is researching DFTD tumour evolution
Members of the
Australasian Wildlife Genomics Group (University of Sydney), who use devil genetics to inform conservation and management strategies
TDP team members record details on a devil during annual monitoring
STDP team member Carly
Devil release at Fentonbury Annual Monitoring Site