Tasmanian devils moved from Maria Island in battle against facial tumour threat

 abc.net.au  5/20/2017 6:22:31 AM   Elise Fantin

Updated May 21, 2017 00:30:24

Tasmanian devils will be flown from Maria Island off the state's east coast to a national park in the north-west as part of the next stage of a relocation program.

The devils are part of an insurance population established on the island in 2012 to ensure the species survives the deadly facial tumour disease.

Work has begun to capture and move about 30 devils over the next two weeks.

Dr Sam Fox from the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program said the devils would be moved to wukalina/Mount William National Park.

"They've bred remarkably well, probably even more successfully then we imagined they would, to a point now where the population is reaching carrying capacity on the island," she said.

Dr Fox said once the devils were captured they were given a health check.

"We're looking to make sure that it doesn't have any broken teeth or any nasty wounds, or anything that for us would say it may need vet attention or it's not in its better possible health," she said.

The devils are then released into a holding pen before they are moved off the Island and flown up north.

Simon Dower who works at Monarto Zoo in South Australia has travelled to Tasmania to assist with the relocation.

His role is to help make the move as smooth as possible.

"Being a wild devil coming into captivity there's obviously going to be stress levels so I want to make sure that when they do come into these pens that we can cater for every welfare concern that we have in terms of areas to hide, water and shade," he said.

Dr Fox said different release methods at Mount William would be trialled.

"We have pens where the devils go into for seven days and then we have animals that are just released directly from their traps," she said.

"We'll look at over time does that mean one or the other actually gives them greater advantage over the long run."

Captive bred devils less savvy

The relocation coincides with the release of a new study looking at Tasmanian devil survival rates.

Researchers have analysed factors contributing to devils becoming roadkill.

Dr Carolyn Hogg from the University of Sydney said the study was conducted after a number of devils ended up as roadkill following their release to the Forestier Peninsula in 2015 and 2016.

"We were interested to see whether or not the individuals that were succumbing to road strike were a particular sex, were individuals of a particular age, how they were housed before they released, or where were they born," she said.

"We found that those devils that had spent several generations in captivity had become naive to wild conditions, which included human infrastructure including roads, cars and people."

Dr Hogg said the findings would be used to influence future devil management decisions.

"Those animals that have been in captivity for quite a number of generations we're more than likely going to release them here to Maria Island and let them breed and use their offspring for future events," she said.

Topics: animal-diseases-and-disorders---devil-facial-tumour-disease, tas

First posted May 20, 2017 16:22:31

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