Animals
 Australia
Project #10280

Help Save the Tasmanian Devil

by Conservation Volunteers Australia
The Iconic
The Iconic 'Devil'

It was a big vision and large undertaking to turn a privately owned property, previously used for farming into a ‘retirement village’ for the aging Tasmanian Devil populations. In early 2013, with the support of Global Giving donors, Conservation Volunteers Australia and Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary set out to make this vision a reality.  

The Tasmanian Devil is somewhat of a national treasure and a local icon.  With the deadly Devil Facial Tumour Disease spreading through the wild population, decimating numbers, it was decided that devils who had contributed to increasing healthy populations through targeted breeding programs in Tasmania needed to be housed in disease-free dwellings.  It was determined that without an enclosure and ‘safe haven’ for these aging devils, the risk of infection was far too great, and so the ‘Taking Care of the Elders’ program began. 

The program has shown remarkable results thanks to your support:

  • Teams of volunteers have spent over 80 days on site carrying out projects using the materials your support has  helped to purchase
  • 80 post holes have been dug, filled and set 
  • Over 600m of rail installed
  • 120m of pipeline dug by hand and pipe installed
  • 200m2 of earth prepared and sown to grass
  • 50 star pickets secured
  • Over 600m2 of iron sheeting has been cut to size, secured to rails and painted; and
  • Around 40 ‘devilish’ dens built and dug in to provide great habitats for the devils moving in to their new home.

These numbers are reflective of the commitment and effort from the volunteers involved in this project.  Of course, all of this wouldn’t have been possible without the kind donations and sponsorship throughout this program, so a huge thank you for being part of this with us! “We are so proud of what has been achieved through this community partnership. Everyone involved is very much looking forward to seeing the first devil release. This will signal the completion of such a worthy and rewarding program”, said Amy Bailey, the Conservation Volunteers Australia's Regional Manager in Hobart.  

Although this aspect of the project is now successfully completed, we expect to continue our conservation efforts for the Tasmanian Devils with some exciting new plans for 2016 - we'll include details in our next update. The vision and the need for help for these beautiful Australia. animals continues, and we look forward to continuing our efforts with your support. Thank you for your help to date, and for all you have helped to achieve for Tasmanian Devils!

The original farming land
The original farming land
Dreams taking shape
Dreams taking shape
Reality realised - a safe Haven!
Reality realised - a safe Haven!

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A
A 'Retired Elder' waiting patiently for new home!

Dear Friends in Conservation,

Our volunteers in Hobart have had a devil of a time over the last year, building the ‘retirement village’ for the aging devil populations that were previously engaged in breeding programs. By being part of the breeding programs these devils have contributed to saving their species, so we are rewarding them for all of their hard work.

The Tasmanian Devil is the world's largest surviving carnivorous marsupial, and these beautiful (and fierce!) animals still need plenty of help. It is believed that devils became extinct on mainland Australia some 400 years ago (before European settlement), due to increasing aridity as well as the spread of dingoes. Evidence suggests that devil populations in Tasmania were at historic highs around 20 years ago, before the devastating impact of the fatal Devil Facial Tumour Disease, first identified in 1996. In 2008, the Tasmanian devil status was upgraded to endangered.

The ‘Taking Care of the Elders’ Program, which was the construction of a large enclosure at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, is in the final stages now. In our last report, we told you about the irrigation systems – our wonderful volunteers have been busy since then digging trenches and laying piping. These activities are now complete and it should only be a matter of weeks before we see the devils in their new home.   

“We are so proud and grateful to all the volunteers who have helped with this important project over the last year and we are really looking forward to the official opening of the enclosure in a few weeks, all of which has only been possible through the kind Global Giving donors, so thank you to everyone for your important role in this project”, said Amy Bailey, Hobart Regional Manager of Conservation Volunteers Australia.

We are continuing to undertake activities with Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary with the kind ongoing support of our donors, to improve the habitat for the current resident devil population.  The backing from all our wonderful friends through Global Giving has made this possible, and the team in Hobart and the devils at Bonorong send our warmest appreciation to all our past and ongoing supporters.  

Preparing channels for the irrigation system
Preparing channels for the irrigation system
Amy sharing the exciting plans for Bonorong
Amy sharing the exciting plans for Bonorong

Links:

Devil Kiss
Devil Kiss

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.

Hi Ho - A Painting We Will Go!
Hi Ho - A Painting We Will Go!
Opening Soon - A retirement Village with a View
Opening Soon - A retirement Village with a View
"Is there room for me please Sir?"
"Is there room for me please Sir?"
"This ground is hard!" - Staking New Seedlings
"This ground is hard!" - Staking New Seedlings

Links:

Tasmanian Devil*
Tasmanian Devil*

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 planting begins!
The planting begins!
Digging it!
Digging it!
United in cause from opposite ends of the globe
United in cause from opposite ends of the globe

Links:

Tasmanian Devil
Tasmanian Devil

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.”

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.

Retirement Village - fence complete!
Retirement Village - fence complete!
Devil Dens ready & waiting for the new residents
Devil Dens ready & waiting for the new residents
Completed enclosure at Bonorong
Completed enclosure at Bonorong

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Organization Information

Conservation Volunteers Australia

Location: Mt Helen, Ballarat, Victoria - Australia
Website: http:/​/​www.conservationvolunteers.com.au
Project Leader:
Madeline Townsend
MOUNT HELEN, VICTORIA Australia