The cute, but fiery Tasmanian Devil is famous for its scary looking gape or yawn that looks so threatening but it is just misunderstood. This yawn is actually a sign of fear and uncertainty by our largest living carnivorous marsupial, now only found in Tasmania.
Despite the continued efforts of dedicated agencies in Tasmania, over 90% of the devils population in the wild has been wiped out from the deadly Devil Facial Tumour Disease. Made famous by the Looney Tunes character of the same name, these magical and mischievous creatures are not only Tasmanian icons, but share a special place in the heart of all Australians.
Taronga Zoo Sydney and Taronga Western Plains Zoo are involved in an Australia-wide Insurance breeding program to try and save the devils from the very real threat of extinction caused by the Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD). Our aim is to breed enough healthy, disease free devils so that if they go extinct in the wild - a possibility in the next 15 to 20 years - we will be able to re-populate Tasmania and save the devils from extinction.
Taronga has experienced great success with the breeding program, boosting the regional zoo-based insurance population. Currently, the population stands at over 500 animals, with the goal being 1500 to maintain genetic diversity above wild levels. Research is also on-going to learn about the disease, how it affects wild devil populations, and maybe even find a cure.