Devil Island Project Group (DIPG) has successfully raised $1,500,000.00 and project managed the building of four Devil Islands or Free Range Enclosures. These are up to sixty acres in area. They have quarantined the disease free devils in Tasmania enabling them to run free in their natural surroundings and climatic conditions of their home state and keep a high percentage of their natural behaviour. Enclosed by a double fence system to prevent the transmission of Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) by diseased devils biting disease free ones, the devils are provided with optimum welfare conditions for devils to virtually run free and keep or learn natural behaviour. Much has already been learned about managing such an extensive method of keeping a carnivorous marsupial and getting them to breed successfully.
Our Future Goals
To Build a new Transportable Fencing System
In 2012 the DIPG was approached by Dr Howel Williams, Director, Save the Tasmanian Devil Program (STTDP) to see if we would be able to raise the funds and project manage the building of a barrier across the Freycinet Peninsular. The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program have now decided to defer this project indefinitely in order to allow them to concentrate on other priorities. The DIPG has been in discussions with the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program since 2010 about building a barrier across the North West of the State.
In late 2014 the DIPG, decided that it was no longer feasible to complete the Woolnorth Barrier Fence due to the inability to secure the necessary finance coupled with the belief that the window of opportunity was rapidly closing. In response to this situation we decided to withdraw the application for funding that had been submitted to the Commonwealth Department of the Environment.
Following further discussions with the STTDP, we have agreed to co-fund and supply a transportable fencing system of 3,200 metres in total length that will assist with the soft release of Tasmanian Devils back into the wild. The returning of Devils to the wild has been made possible by the success of the Insurance Population and the development of a vaccine designed to trigger the Devil’s own immune system against the DFTD.
The DIPG is currently holding $300,000 to commit to this project and on Wednesday 25th May, The Federal Minister for the Environment, The Hon. Greg Hunt, in Hobart, announced the release of $500,000, to the DIPG to supplement our own funds. As far as we know this project is a world first towards having the soft release into the wild of a native carnivore.
We are currently, after building a number of prototype barrier panels, working toward finalising the specifications for the barrier design and hope to be able to call for tenders in early July for the construction of this barrier system.
Devil Island #6
The second phase of our current project will see two smaller enclosures of approximately 10 hectares, built on crown land in the south of the State that is yet to be defined, to house Devils during the multi stage inoculation process. This element of the project will greatly assist Professor Greg Woods of the Menzies Centre in improving the efficiency of the vaccination process, and provide Devils behaviourally adapted to be released to the wild with less chance of them becoming roadkill victims.
What else is in the future?
When the DIPG was formed in 2007, it seemed like a pipedream to suggest that in under ten years we would see Tasmanian Devils being reintroduced to the wild, however, things have advanced at a rapid rate and this has now become a reality.
Many things have been learnt along the way, like our worst fears that the population of Devils would be completely wiped out. It now appears that in virtually all areas there has been a residual, although dramatically smaller population in virtually all regions.
The success of the Devil Islands, another world first, is now proven with many of the Devils selected for release coming through these facilities. The success of translocation of Devils to Maria Island has contributed to the very healthy numbers of animals in the Insurance Population.
The development of the vaccine by Professor Greg Woods and his team at the Menzies Centre is a game changer toward the reintroduction of the Devil to the wild.
However if the STTDP was to give us another challenge, as we near completion of our current projects, we would give this challenge some serious consideration.