The Tasmanian Devil is the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial, and scavenges for carrion where available. Unique to Tasmania, its populations have been severely reduced by Devil Facial Tumour Disease.
Devil Facial Tumor Disease is transferred when an infected Tasmanian Devil bites another - common behaviour among devils, especially during the mating season. It is commonly thought that the low genetic variation in the devil population may contribute to the spread of the disease, by limiting their immune system’s ability to respond.
Since 1996, the Tasmanian Devil population has declined by 60 per cent due to the disease. The species’ threat status was upgraded from vulnerable to endangered in 2007, and the Facial Tumor Disease currently affects approximately 60 per cent of the wild Tasmanian Devil population.
Our two Zoos and other Australian zoos and wildlife parks have come together to establish an insurance breeding program for Tasmanian Devils. It aims to sustain a healthy, disease-free population of Tasmanian Devils on mainland Australia, in order to provide genetically and behaviorally suitable animals for release back into Tasmania should this be necessary.
The opening of Tasmanian Devil facilities at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in 2008 and Taronga Zoo in mid-2010 provides the opportunity to achieve the breeding aims of the program, while communicating the threats of the disease to the public.