Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s Tasmanian Devils are into their fourth breeding season since arriving at the Zoo in late 2007.
Already keepers have seen some positive signs from several of the Devil pairs which will hopefully produce some offspring in the near future. Tasmanian Devils have a gestation period of 21 days and can give birth to up to 30 – 40 joeys however, only four joeys are able to survive as there are only four teats. The joeys will stay with mum until they are approximately one year old; they are then weaned and are held in a crèche where they live together with other joeys from that breeding season. From age two a Tasmanian Devil is old enough to breed and will be either transferred to another wildlife organisation to join their breeding program or will remain here in Dubbo and be part of the Zoo’s breeding program.
To date, the Zoo has experienced great success with the breeding program for this endangered species with 16 healthy joeys being born. This is a huge boost to the regional zoo-based insurance population.
The Devil Facial Tumour Disease has already claimed 60% of wild devils in Tasmanian and the health of Tasmanian’s ecosystems are dependent on their continued survival. Taronga Western Plains Zoo is one of 15 wildlife organisations across Australia that have taken on the vital role of breeding a disease-free population as an insurance against the real possibility that this iconic creature may become extinct in the wild.
Zoos play a vital role in the conservation, ensuring there is a healthy and diverse insurance population in a zoo-based environment that can be released into the wild should an animal become extinct. The national effort to save the Tasmanian Devil involves controlled breeding with the hope of boosting Tasmanian Devil numbers in the wild when the risk of disease is arrested or diminishes.
The Tasmanian Devil breeding season runs from February to June every year. Keepers have their fingers crossed that this year is going to be another successful breeding season.