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At Sydney's Taronga Zoo, Tasmanian Devil Keepers at got their first hands-on check of four little
devil joeys, the first born at the Zoo this breeding season. The youngsters were snuggled tightly in their nest with their mother, Nina. Keepers gently lifted them out to check their body condition and determine their sex. Closer inspection revealed that Nina had given birth to one female and three male joeys.



Photo Credit: Taronga Zoo

Australian Fauna Supervisor, Nick de Vos, said: “Over the last few months we’ve been observing Nina and the joeys from a distance. We knew she had four little ones but we were absolutely stoked to discover she had a girl amongst the litter. Females are vital for the ongoing national breeding program."


With Tasmanian Devils under threat from extinction due to a contagious cancer which causes fatal facial tumours, the birth of the four joeys is encouraging for the species and for the network of mainland zoos managing insurance populations of the iconic animals.

Sadly, the situation for wild Tasmanian Devils is not promising, with the species recently listed as endangered. Field monitoring has shown a dramatic fall in the population of devils since the disease emerged in 1996. After getting the disease, devils generally do not live longer than six months.

“They all look fantastic. Their condition is really amazing, so it’s a testament to Nina, who is a first-time mother, to be able to confidently parent these young. She is certainly very defensive to us every morning and that’s the response we want to see -- Nina protecting them -- so she’s definitely doing a very good job.”

"At approximately four months of age, the joeys already have a good set of teeth which one of the young males tested out on my thumb," Nick joked. "When he let go he started snarling, so he definitely already has the ‘devil’ instinct!"

These four joeys are really vital for the future of this species. Without managed breeding programs in zoos across Australia, Tasmanian Devils could be extinct within 15 years. Every new joey represents extra hope for the devils.  Nick added, "To see four healthy, strong joeys certainly confirms that everything we are doing for this species is worthwhile.”