The Tasmanian Devil keepers at Taronga Western Plains Zoo are proud to announce the much anticipated arrival of two young Tasmanian Devil joeys. The joeys are yet to be named and are now approximately five and a half months old. Today we have caught the two joeys up to determine their sex and also give the pair a general health check. We have been able to determine that we have a two males.
Having recently outgrown mum’s pouch, keepers have been lucky enough to catch several opportunistic glimpses of the joeys either attached to mum’s back or being dragged along on her teat during routine keeper tasks. Lentil, a first time mother, is being very protective of her joeys, only leaving their side to retrieve food or fend off those pesky keepers that come too close during routine cleaning tasks. At present, the joeys are mostly remaining out of sight in the comfort and safety of their nest boxes that have been provided for such purposes. In the coming weeks however, curiosity will no doubt get the better of them and it is likely that keepers will be seeing much more of the youngsters as they begin to explore their surroundings.
These joeys will go on to play an important insurance role in the Tasmanian Devil regional recovery program that both Taronga and Taronga Western Plains Zoos with other zoos and wildlife parks throughout Australia are managing. This breeding program was established as the official response to the Tasmanian Devil’s fight against extinction from a rare and unusual contagious cancer called the Devil Facial Tumour Disease.
The Devil Facial Tumour Disease is a lethal, infectious cancer that causes lumps or lesions on the face and neck area that develop into large external tumours. The tumours make it difficult for the animal to eat, eroding bone and soft tissue and can spread into the liver, kidney and other organs resulting in death by starvation or organ failure. Since its discovery in 1996, the Devil Facial Tumour Disease has caused an 85% decline in population numbers state-wide.
Originally discovered in the top north-eastern corner of the state, the disease continues to spread in a westerly direction at a rate of 5-7km per year. For more information on the Devil Facial Tumour Disease, or to see how you can help, visit the official Save The Tasmanian Devil Website at www.tassiedevil.com.au.
By Tasmanian Devil Keeper, Tessa Baker