This year marks 20 years since the Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) was detected, affecting Tasmanian Devils in their natural habitat. DFTD is a fatal disease, and extremely unusual as it is a transmissible cancer that passes from devil to devil – the impact on wild populations of this species has been huge. Significant reductions in the population of a top predator like the devil has significant implications for the rest of the ecosystem too. Thankfully researchers and other passionate individuals and groups are working hard towards a solution for a healthy and reliable future for the Tasmanian Devil.
To help strengthen the devil population, Conservation Volunteers Australia and Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary have undertaken a partnership to protect and support the future of Tasmanian Devils through a breeding program for healthy devils. This breeding program is showing success with our female devil, Nymeria, giving birth late last year to two babies, Luca and Kalina. Conservation Volunteers Australia’s Regional Manager in Hobart, Amy, reports “These babies have been doing so well and getting bigger by the day! The family have now been moved to a separate ‘family’ enclosure and are currently on display with their mum in Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. A highly successful breeding program, an important family - on display for people to witness.”
Bonorong now has another female devil in that enclosure ready for the breeding season, and we look forward to keeping you up-to-date on their progress in the next report. A sincere thanks to all our donors who continue to support us in our fight to give the Tasmanian Devil a Wild Future.
With the unpredictable heat during the summer months (December to February) we’re unable to conduct full scale monitoring of the bandicoots. Instead, we use this period to concentrate on our grassland health and research programs.
Invasive weeds are a real threat to the grasslands at Woodlands Historical Park, and our volunteers have been very busy removing artichoke thistle. This invasive weed species takes up vital grassland space due to its huge seed load and potential to take over large areas very quickly by out competing the native grasses. Conservation Volunteers Australia’s Project Officer, Travis, reports: “It's a long battle starting in October and going through to January as the thistles spread their seeds in late January and February. It's a challenge in the heat cutting them back down to ground level and applying herbicide to remove them. They are also very prickly, so well done to everyone involved as the bandicoots will appreciate having more grass habitat to build nests in.”
After many nights researching new trap designs, we have chosen the trap for future Woodlands monitoring. A new trap design was needed due to the high rate of bycatch when monitoring bandicoots. Travis explains, “We catch a large number of brushtail possums as they are active earlier than the bandicoots and get to the traps first. Whilst we catch many, the possums are also known for setting off the traps, which limits our ability to capture bandicoots. The new design has a new door inserted into the trap with a smaller hole built in. This allows us to still remove the bandicoot for handling whilst reducing possum entry. Possums are very creative and can get into very tight spaces so we can't keep them all out, especially the smaller ones, but the new design will help. Overall it will hopefully give us a greater chance at targeting the bandicoots during the monitoring season.”
We currently run around 230 traps at Woodlands covering 23 kilometres, and each one of those traps will need to be replaced. This will be quite costly but a very important changeover, and your donations will make a huge difference. Thank you very much for your continued support as every dollar helps!
We look forward to breaking some more monitoring records and keeping you up-to-date with our progress throughout the year.
Spring has seen our second monitoring round completed at both Woodlands Historic Park and Hamilton Community Parklands, with some outstanding results.
We completed seven days of trapping (and releasing!) on both sites, with a total of 1,280 traps checked, 2,000 bait balls made to attract the bandicoots and 110 kilometres walked very early in the morning in search of our furry friends. It’s been a huge undertaking but the results have made it more than worthwhile – records were broken everywhere!
Firstly to our Woodlands results. Thankfully with the warmer weather our grass habitat has started to return after the wet winter. This has proved vital for the bandicoot’s breeding conditions, which showed in the overall numbers. Project Officer, Travis, reports “Our previous record was 114 individuals caught, and amazingly we surpassed that with 132 individuals found! We also found that 65 of those individuals were new born and bred on site, and had never been caught before. This shows a great new breeding cycle has taken place, and a new influx of juvenile animals are on the ground to take the breeding and population growth even further over the next few years. Out of all the females caught 94% showed signs of breeding, including 93 pouch young. It looks like there will be plenty of summer babies this year. We hope they all do well and look forward to monitoring them next autumn. Check out this short video of a volunteer releasing a bandicoot after its health check.
Hamilton has also produced fantastic results. Earlier this year 20 bandicoots were released on site to start off the program. Monitoring such low numbers can be like finding a needle in a haystack, however, we managed to capture 15 individuals from the original release. Travis says “This is wonderful news as it shows that Hamilton is in perfect condition for both habitat and food sources for the bandicoots. All the animals processed were in good health and they are being found all over the site. We are also now very proud parents in Hamilton with five new bandicoot babies born and bred on site. As per Woodlands, all the females we caught had pouch young so the population is well on the way to expanding and boosting the overall total of bandicoots in Victoria.”
With these excellent results, it really has been a great end to the monitoring year. There have been many challenges throughout the year, but with the generous support from donors and the invaluable assistance from volunteers, these resilient, wonderful, creatures can be brought back from the brink of extinction!
Once again thank you to everyone involved from, our dedicated volunteers, our very generous GlobalGiving donors, Parks Victoria and all members of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Team who have assisted with making this possible. We look forward to keeping you up-to-date on our bandicoot friends in 2017!