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Tas­man­ian dev­ils sent as ambas­sador to over­seas Zoos

pub­lished 25 June 2013 | mod­i­fied 30 May 2014

Tasmanian devil healthyThe Tas­man­ian Min­is­ter for Envi­ron­ment, Parks and Her­itage, Brian Wight­man, today announced a trial to send Tas­man­ian dev­ils as ambas­sadors to over­seas zoos to raise aware­ness of Devil Facial Tumour Dis­ease and ini­ti­ate a for­eign breed­ing pro­gramme that will sup­port Australia’s con­ser­va­tion efforts.

Mr Wight­man said that the ini­tia­tive would be under­taken as a pilot project over the fol­low­ing year, involv­ing a lim­ited num­ber of high pro­file zoos — up to three in New Zealand and two zoos in the United States of Amer­ica — and a total of about 20 dev­ils to begin with.

This ini­tia­tive is only pos­si­ble now that a strong, viable insur­ance pop­u­la­tion of Tas­man­ian dev­ils has been estab­lished here in Australia.
Min­is­ter Brian Wightman »

“We will eval­u­ate the pro­gram and if it is a suc­cess, it could be extended in com­ing years to involve up to ten zoos in North Amer­ica and Europe, three in New Zealand and two in Japan.”

“We need to care for ani­mals that are no longer actively par­tic­i­pat­ing in the insur­ance pop­u­la­tion, or that are genet­i­cally over-​represented in it. This pro­gram allows us to do that, while at the same time the dev­ils will raise aware­ness of the plight of their species and lock in more help for the con­ser­va­tion effort.”

Mr Wight­man said he had approved a ‘world best prac­tice’ frame­work for the ini­tia­tive with strict con­di­tions for over­seas zoos and a sig­nif­i­cant return ben­e­fit to devil con­ser­va­tion activ­i­ties within Aus­tralia. The frame­work approved for the Ambas­sador Devil ini­tia­tive will ensure that the con­ser­va­tion ben­e­fits to the species in Aus­tralia and to the Save the Tas­man­ian Devil Pro­gram are the num­ber one pri­or­ity. It will ensure that the ani­mals selected for over­seas place­ment are no longer essen­tial for breed­ing as part of the insur­ance pop­u­la­tion, and that only promi­nent zoos with a proven com­mit­ment to con­ser­va­tion would be considered.

While the for­mal own­er­ship of the Ambas­sador dev­ils will remain with the Tas­man­ian gov­ern­ment, the insti­tu­tions selected will be required to adhere to the high­est stan­dard of ani­mal hus­bandry, based on the Program’s own strict guidelines.

Mr Wight­man said the zoos will be selected on the basis of the qual­ity of hus­bandry and the facil­i­ties they can pro­vide, together with the likely level of pub­lic expo­sure the dev­ils will receive:

“They must also demon­strate their will­ing­ness to be directly involved in con­ser­va­tion activ­i­ties for Tas­man­ian dev­ils within Australia.”

The Pro­gram and the Save the Tas­man­ian Devil Appeal are work­ing together to make best use of any fundrais­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties from the pub­lic pro­mo­tion pro­vided by these place­ments and any invest­ments made by over­seas zoos in work in Aus­tralia on Tas­man­ian devils.

The pro­gram is launched just after the first ever birth of Tas­man­ian dev­ils in the north­ern hemi­sphere, in which con­cep­tion actu­ally took place in the north­ern hemi­sphere. Other births have been recorded with female Tas­man­ian dev­ils which were sent to for­eign zoos already with tiny pouch young. This suc­cess at Copen­hagen Zoo was a clear incen­tive for the Tas­man­ian Gov­ern­ment to con­tinue to expand the breed­ing pro­gramme for these mag­nif­i­cent ani­mals, accord­ing to Androo Kelly, the pres­i­dent and owner of Trowunna Wildlife Park in Tas­ma­nia, where Copen­hagen Zoo’s dev­ils orig­i­nally come from.

(Source: Pre­mier of Tas­ma­nia media release, 23.06.2013; Copen­hagen Zoo news, 07.06.2013)

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