Conservation & Research

More to lose than the devils

Ecologists believe that the decreasing devil population has a highly detrimental impact on the environment as well as agricultural industries. One of the biggest threats posed as a result of the decline in devil numbers is the introduction of invasive species, like foxes, feral dogs and cats.

Until now Tasmania has had a remarkably diverse and plentiful fauna. Although shocking to see so much road-kill on Tasmanian roads, this demonstrates the incredible wildlife density that Tasmania still enjoys – diversity that was destroyed on mainland Australia with the arrival of foxes, dogs and cats. Although feral cats and dogs are already present in Tasmania, they have never really established themselves as the pests that they are on the mainland.

National listing

In May 2009, the Federal Government upgraded the Tasmanian devil’s conservation status listing to the Endangered category under the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC 1999).

State Listing

The Tasmanian devil’s status was formally upgraded to Endangered under Tasmania’s Threatened Species Protection Act 1995, in May 2008.

Global Listing

In late 2008, the Tasmanian devil was also uplisted to Endangered on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) – widely considered the most authoritative system for classifying species in terms of their risk of extinction. The Tasmanian devil is now wholly protected.

The aim of an insurance population is to establish and maintain a population of healthy, genetically diverse Tasmanian devils that maintain their wild traits and are able to be successfully released into the wild. The captive breeding of an insurance population is the process of breeding animals in controlled environments such as wildlife reserves, zoos and other conservation facilities. Sometimes the process includes the release of individuals back to the wild to support new individuals or when the threat to the species in the wild is lessened. Captive breeding programs facilitate biodiversity and may save species from extinction.

The Tasmanian devil insurance population strategy is set out by the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program (STDP), an initiative of the Tasmanian government. The strategy establishes captive populations of Tasmanian devils for an insurance population. Under the coordination of the international conservation body, IUCN, and the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA), a captive management strategy was developed and implemented that included the need for captive breeding facilities on Australia’s mainland.

The STDP provides an overarching framework to establish and maintain a healthy, viable insurance population of Tasmanian devils according to the following criteria;

  • Disease free (DFTD-free);
  • Genetically representative of the species;
  • Show wild behaviours wherever possible, to facilitate reintroduction to the wild
  • Able to sustain a harvest of animals for release to the wild.

DFTD Vaccination

The Wild Devil Recovery Project is a joint initiative between the Menzies Institute for Medical Research and the STDP who are conducting the vaccination field trials as an opportunity to test the immunisation response against DFTD and to help refine and develop more effective vaccination techniques. The trial is an important step in ensuring the Tasmanian devil’s long-term survival in the wild.

As part of the Wild Devil Recovery Project, 19 devils received the immunisation and were released into Narawntapu National Park in Northern Tasmania on the 25th September 2015.

For more information, please go to this website

For more information regarding devil conservation, please visit the Rewilding Australia website

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