Thursday, 25 April 2013

Endangered devils breeding on Maria Island

By Fiona Blackwood 

Updated Sun Apr 21, 2013 10:52am AEST 

A plan to establish a wild population of Tasmanian devils free of the deadly facial tumour disease is showing signs of success. 

After just five months on Maria Island, off Tasmania's East Coast, the devils have successfully bred, doubling their numbers. 

The Save the Tasmanian devil Program released a total of 15 devils last year. 

Wildlife biologist Phil Wise says one of them, a four year old devil known as Jimmy, grew up in captivity and has relaxed into his new home. 

"It's a really nice part of bringing them back into the wild is they seemed to have calmed down and relaxed so that makes it easy for us," he said. 

As the deadly facial tumour disease continues to wipe out the species on mainland Tasmania the island population has been established along with a number of sanctuaries interstate. 

Mr Wise says the value of the insurance population cannot be underestimated. 

"If the disease does go the way of causing extinction on the mainland of Tasmania then knowing there's a wild population here that's disease free will be something to look back on and be very proud of," said Mr Wise. 

A team of biologists has been trapping and checking the health of the released devils. 

They have found that the animals have established dens and are breeding. 

So far they have counted 15 pouch young. 

The Director of the Save the Tasmanian devil Program, Howel Williams, says it is a sign that the population is thriving. 

"I think this points to the fact that they're really settled in very well and have felt good enough about it that they've been able to reproduce successfully," he said. 

While the devils are reproducing there has been one death. 

A devil was found dead in a collapsed wombat burrow earlier this year. 

Mr Wise says it is part of life in a wild situation where the carnivores have a 60 per cent mortality rate. 

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