Dear Friends in Conservation,
The Tasmanian Devil has a reputation as a fierce marsupial with a bad temper and the ability to completely devour its prey - bones and all. It might be this reputation that has enabled the Tasmanian Devil to survive the attempted eradication of its species in the 1830’s, unlike the unfortunate Tasmanian Tiger. Although proven survivors in the past, the Devil Facial Tumor Disease is proving to be detrimental to this species, with a devastating population decline of up to 95% in some areas of Tasmania. Thankfully though, we are no longer in the 1830’s and there have been a number of successful programs undertaken to see the protection of this unique and endearing species.
We are very pleased to share the exciting achievements of our volunteer teams, who have been utilising our wonderful supporters’ donations to complete the construction of a ‘retirement village’ for the aging healthy Tasmanian Devils who have been instrumental in contributing towards the increase in their population through ‘selfless participation’ in breeding programs.
This impressively large enclosure can be seen from’ Kangaroo Country’ within the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. This ‘distinctive’ retirement village is structured to house up to twenty five retiree Devils in three separate pens, which include all the ‘creature comforts’ a Devil needs; dens, mounds, native vegetation and most of all - a safe and happy haven for the rest of their days, protected from potentially contagious devils. Steven Joyce, a Team Leader of the program said, “This project has been great for international and local volunteers - to be able to be contribute towards helping this iconic species is something people find really special; which is all thanks to our generous supporters so far in this project.”
The village, which has utilised in its construction both recycled and donated materials, is currently undertaking an all-important paint job, to ensure it remains protected from the elements. Volunteers have spent the last couple of months painting the multi-coloured roofing iron a natural grey tone, the second last step before the elders will be released. Irrigation will be the final task that will see the ‘retirement village’ completed and open for ‘devilish business’.
We are extremely grateful for all our supporters for making our work possible and we currently seek financial donations that will assist in the purchase and installation of this vital and final step for the ‘Taking Care of the Elders’ Program. If you would like to support our project again, one great day to do this will be July 15th when Global Giving will provide a 30% match for donation (up to $1,000 per donor) made on-line through Global Giving beginning at 9.00am until available funds are spent.
On behalf of the Tasmanian Devils, thank you for your generous and life saving support.
This report marks the final chapter of our successful partnership with Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary and the completed ‘Retirement Village’ that now stretches approximately 600m across the hill of the sanctuary, apart from some finishing touches and a glass of champagne to toast the ‘old devils’ as they arrive at their new home. We will be sure to send you a further update and some pictures as the devils settle in.
With little advancement being made towards successfully discovering a treatment or cure for the spread of the deadly facial tumour disease, which is still currently decimating the Tasmanian devil population, efforts to save and preserve these iconic creatures have not abated. While the science is still at work, various forms of on-ground activity continue at a grass roots level; activity that sees united sections of the Tasmanian community combine forces to ensure the devil will have a future in this state.
Healthy populations of devils are being quarantined around Tasmania in a variety of locations including a closely monitored group of new arrivals to Maria Island, situated off the East Coast of Tasmania. These devils are being observed to assess their suitability in not only adapting to their new environment, but also to gauge what impact they have upon the existing wildlife species and birdlife on the Island. In other regions extensive devil proof fencing is being erected across country to confine the movement of both healthy and affected devil populations – where neither the two shall mix.
Meanwhile the breeding programs continue and our ageing devils, those that have their best years behind them, are gearing up for residency at their new home. According to Greg Irons from the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, the first arrivals will begin once the final tasks are undertaken and completed in our joint “Taking Care of The Elders’ project.
With the months of summer passing, the planting season is now upon us and CVA’s teams of volunteers have commenced re-vegetating the devil enclosure to provide native habitat and shelter through the planting of selected native trees, shrubs and grasses. In addition to the plantings we have been installing an irrigation system. This will allow for healthy plant establishment and naturally, water is an essential commodity for the resident devils.
Finishing touches are all important and none more so than issuing volunteers with cans of paint and brushes – a task that will not only provide a facelift for the secondhand materials used in the structure, but an opportunity to blend into the hillside above Bonorong. This will be followed by an invitation to students from the local high school to ‘get creative’ and demonstrate their artistic skills by adorning the visible walls of the enclosure with depictions of wildlife and the environment as they see it. This will provide a great opportunity for students to learn more about our natural and cultural environment while having fun painting up storm.
Our ‘Taking Care of The Elders’ project has captured the imagination of all involved since we began eighteen months ago – from the donors of project resources to our many volunteer teams. The project has offered an opportunity for people to become involved in not just a topical issue, but one which is dear to us all, and perhaps a little different. We wish to thank you for your generosity and ongoing support in this attempt to provide a sustainable future for this iconic creature that is the Tasmanian devil.
CVA is continuing to develop new opportunities with partners to ensure the ongoing survival of Tasmanian Devils. One of the key devil conservation strategies is the establishment of captive breeding programs that are taking place in a small number of locations across Australia and may be the last vestige of hope for these amazing animals if the wild population does not survive. Many of these programs have to deal with the ever increasing demand for enclosure space, increasing animal husbandry efforts, enclosure maintenance and financial constraints in order to continue expanding the breeding program for successful Tasmanian Devil survival. Importantly these captive populations will form the basis of future reintroductions to replace or supplement wild populations.
With an increasing and urgent need for Tasmanian Devil captive breeding programs and facilities, the Australian Reptile Park in Gosford created Devil Ark in 2011, an intensive Tasmanian Devil breeding program based at a property in the Barrington Tops mountains of NSW. At an altitude of 1,350 metres, the Barrington Tops provides the perfect breeding environment for devils. The Tasmanian-like vegetation and cool, wet and snowy conditions means the devils are at home in this environment. Tasmanian Devils at Devil Ark are kept in a natural environment to maintain their wild behaviour and the keepers intervene as little as possible. These natural behaviours and lack of human conditioning is important if they are to be released into the wild in the future. The Devil Ark program was launched in January 2011 with 44 Tasmanian devils. Following two very successful breeding seasons, the Devil Ark population now stands at 90 devils, with more plans for expansion.
Ian Walker, Director Conservation with Conservation Volunteers Australia says “to house the increasing population of devils at Devil Ark, more enclosures need to be built and existing enclosures require ongoing maintenance and habitat enhancement.
With increasing awareness for the Devil Ark program and public motivation to actively assist we can make a huge difference. Extending the enclosures, ensuring devils can breed and are free of the tumour will be critical for future reintroduction into the wild. CVA is committed to securing the Tasmanian Devil in the wild and we encourage you to get behind the next devil conservation project.”
Thank you for your continued support of the Tasmanian Devil - your help is needed now more than ever as we move to the next phase of our goal to give the Tasmanian Devil a Wild Future.
*Photo courtesy Greg Irons
The completed ‘Retirement Village’ now stretches approximately 600m across the hill of Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. The only remaining task before devils can inhabit their new home is to install water facilities and a range of native vegetation trees and shrubs. Irrigation of fresh drinking water is naturally of prime importance as is the creation of native habitat. Once these vital tasks have been completed we will see devils on the ‘waiting list’ released into this enclosure to begin their lives of leisure. Before this can eventuate however, financial contributions are continuing to be sought - big or small they will all help to bring this project to a close while a new life for the devils will just be beginning.
As we wait for the final stages of the Retirement Village to be completed, we are looking to the next stage of our devil conservation efforts. We will be working with a number of groups to source new programs to support our ongoing devil initiatives, and we look forward to keeping you up-to-date with these in the coming months.
Why do we choose to support the Tasmanian Devil? This iconic species is under threat and in just 18 years its rating has changed from ‘common and stable’ to ‘endangered’. Their dramatic population decline over the last decade is due to a fatal, contagious cancer — devil facial tumour disease. There is currently no known vaccination, treatment or way to detect the disease, before the tumours occur. According to some predictions, the devil facial tumour disease could wipe out wild Tasmanian devils in less than 40 years.
As the facial tumour disease is spread through contact, separating these populations is of utmost importance. Creating the Retirement Village at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary was a significant first step towards preventing the interaction from diseased populations to clean populations. Colin Jackson, CEO of Conservation Volunteers Australia says, “CVA is committed to making a meaningful contribution to a sustainable future for the Tasmanian Devil and we encourage everyone to do the same.”
Conservation Volunteers Australia in partnership with Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary have spent the last 12 months building a large retirement village for the aging Tasmanian devil population. This enclosure will see up to 25 devils, who previously participated in breeding programs, housed for the remainder of their marsupial days! These senior citizens have contributed towards increasing healthy devil populations and in turn securing a future for their species. We thought it was only fair to provide them with a safe and disease free future.
The enclosure itself is now complete and includes natural and native habitat, isolation/segregation areas, common sniffing platforms, digging mounds and sleeping facilities – everything a devil could want! Steve Bailey, the State Manager of Conservation Volunteers Australia in Hobart, said “What an impressive structure this is, built from such a wide range of materials. It is a fine example of what can be achieved through great leadership and teamwork.”
Conservation Volunteers Australia and Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary would like to thank everyone who has been involved in helping this unique species. There have been significant contributions at various levels such as; over 50 people volunteering their time to assist in the construction of the enclosure, financial donations and material donations for the equipment needed and promotion of this worthy project. A local volunteer who has provided a great deal of assistance said “I am very excited to see the enclosure so close to completion and it will be very heart-warming to see the devils released.”
The next task is to install water facilities. Irrigation systems and drinking facilities are essential for the devils inhabiting the ‘retirement village’. We need your help to implement this utility and see devils on the ‘waiting list’ released into this terrific enclosure to begin their lives of leisure. Financial contributions, big or small, will help to secure irrigation materials for the enclosure. We will also continue maintaining the enclosure to keep predators away, and we are planning more projects to protect Tasmanian Devils with your support.
Conservation Volunteers is proud to announce the ‘Taking Care of the Elders’ Program is nearing completion and we are aiming to have the enclosure complete in a months’ time. This year-long program to provide a ‘retirement village’ for ageing Tasmanian devils is now taking shape and will be ready for its residents soon. The enclosure will see up to 25 healthy senior devils housed at one time. The ‘retirement village’ includes natural and native habitat, isolation/segregation areas, common sniffing platforms, digging mounds and sleeping facilities – everything a devil could want!
The exterior fence that stretches approximately 600m across the hill of Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary is now completely established. To complete the fence, 80 fencing post were installed, timber rail was used for stability and hundreds of sheets of second-hand roofing iron was sourced and secured with thousands of special screws to enable completion. The 24 devil dens are also complete and ready to accommodate the ageing carnivorous marsupials. To finalise the ‘retirement village’ community volunteers will secure the remaining wire mesh along the exterior wall of the enclosure to ensure there are no digging devil escapees. (Nobody can get out - nobody can get in!).
Conservation Volunteers would like to express thanks for all donations received for this program, without these generous contributions we would not have been able to purchase all materials for the project and ensure the devils are able to live out the remainder of their days in a disease free environment. “Volunteer contributions towards this worthy project have been outstanding and humbling. It is great to see so many people helping this unique Tasmanian animal”, said Amy Bailey, Regional Coordinator at Conservation Volunteers Tasmania.
If you’re able to donate again we would really appreciate it – every donation will help us to continue achieving these great conservation results and see the devils move into their new, disease free, home. We also need to continue maintaining the enclosure to keep predators away. Stay tuned for the next update, when we hope to report on the Devils being transferred into their Retirement Village!
Thank you again for supporting this project.
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Mt Helen, Ballarat,