Securing a shared future for wildlife and people

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The Wildlife Reproductive Centre (WRC), based at Taronga Western Plains Zoo applies innovative research techniques and data obtained fromzoo-based populations to better understand factors contributing to population viability of key species. This includes determining population numbers and dynamics, reproductive health and well-being of individuals and populations. 

For example, the WRC in collaboration with PhD student Elizabeth Burgess, Dr. Janet Lanyon (Marine Vertebrate Ecology Research Group at the University of Queensland) and staff at Sea World and the Sydney Aquarium we are studying dugongs in their care to better understand dugong reproductive biology and develop population models that incorporate reliable life history parameters. Hormone metabolite concentrations in faecal samples have been used to map reproductive patterns in known dugongs, and paired with morphometric parameters to determine gender, puberty and reproductive state in wild dugongs. This information has improved the monitoring of this species from absolute numbers to include an understanding of population dynamics and viability.

Tamara Keeley from the WRC is also studying the impact of Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) on the reproductive potential of infected Tasmanian devils. The wild population of Tasmanian devils is rapidly declining as a result of the transmissible cancer, DFTD and as a result the once-common devil is now classified as endangered by the IUCN. We are currently evaluating reproductive tract and sperm quality data from wild male devils with varying stages of DFTD to gain a better understanding of seasonal variation and the effects of the disease on fertility. This information will be used to better understand the full impact of this disease and the subsequent dynamics of the population.

How can you help?

Boat strikes, fishing wire and mesh nets can kill or severely injure marine animals such as dugongs and sea turtles. If you own a motorized boat, please be aware of all marine wildlife and operate it responsibly.  Please slow down in areas of high boat traffic and shallowwater. If you are fishing, please take responsibility for your hooks and fishing lines – make sure you take everything home.

If you live in Tasmania, please report any sightings of devils (with or without signs of the disease) to the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program. This information can be used for determining population numbers and can help us monitor the progression and prevalence of the disease. You can also volunteer to assist in field monitoring and wild management of devils. For more information or to donate or callDevil Disease Hotline on 03 6233 2006.

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