Tasmanian Devil

Two Litters of Endangered Tasmanian Devils Born

1 - Tasmanian Devil Joeys

Taronga Western Plains Zoo is pleased to announce the arrival of two healthy litters of Tasmanian Devil joeys! According to keepers, this is one of the most successful years to date for the Zoo’s Tasmanian Devil conservation breeding program.

The first litter of three joeys arrived on March 19 to mother Lana. Keepers were recently able to take a close look at each joey and confirm their sex (two males and one female). Another female, Pooki, birthed four joeys more recently on June 19, which are yet to emerge from the pouch.

“We’re very pleased to see nurturing, maternal instincts from both Lana and Pooki, who are both two-year-old females and first-time mothers,” Taronga Western Plains Zoo Senior Keeper Steve Kleinig said.

“The three joeys born in March…are now weaned (meaning they have left mother Lana’s pouch) but they still remain close by her side. They are now playing with each other and exploring independently outside the den.”

“The four joeys born in June are starting to open their eyes and become more aware of their surroundings. While they are still attached to their mother's teats, we’re expecting they will begin to leave their mother’s pouch in the coming weeks,” Steve said.

2 - Tasmanian Devil Joeys

3 - TWPZ Keepers Hayley Brooks  Karen James and Rachel Schildkraut with Tasmanian Devil JoeysPhoto Credits: Taronga Western Plains Zoo (Image 3: Keepers Hayley Brooks, Karen James, and Rachel Schildkraut)

Taronga Western Plains Zoo is part of a national insurance population program designed to help save the Tasmanian Devil from becoming extinct as a result of the Devil Facial Tumour Disease*.

The Zoo’s breeding success this year is the result of a more targeted approach, and has benefited from favorable breeding recommendations. These are based on the unique characteristics and genetics of a breeding pair and, combined with their compatibility upon meeting, can determine breeding success.

“We are continuing to collaborate with other breeding institutions to improve the long-term viability of our program, such as Devil Ark in the Barrington Tops, where Lana and Pooki came from, and Tasmania’s Trowunna Wildlife Park, where the father originated,” Steve said.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo has two breeding facilities for the Tasmanian Devil located behind the scenes. The Zoo has bred 31 healthy Tasmanian Devil joeys so far - a significant boost to the regional zoo-based insurance population of this endangered species.

With Tasmanian Devil numbers in the wild currently dwindling to between 15,000 and 50,000 individuals, every birth is significant. The mainland breeding program of which the Zoo is a part could play an important role in helping to re-establish healthy wild populations of the species in Tasmania if needed in future.

The Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) is a carnivorous marsupial of the family Dasyuridae. It was once native to mainland Australia, but it is now found only in the wild on the island state of Tasmania, including tiny east coast Maria Island where there is a conservation project with disease-free animals.

The Tasmanian Devil is the size of a small dog and became the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world following the extinction of the Thylacine in 1936. It is related to Quolls and distantly related to the Thylacine.

It is characterized by its stocky and muscular build, black fur, pungent odor, extremely loud and disturbing screech, keen sense of smell, and ferocity when feeding. The Tasmanian Devil's large head and neck allow it to generate among the strongest bites per unit body mass of any extant mammal land predator, and it hunts prey and scavenges carrion as well as eating household products if humans are living nearby.

A breeding Tasmanian Devil female can produce up to 50 young that are about the size of a grain of rice. Competition for survival is fierce, and only the first four joeys are able to latch onto the mother’s teats.

In 2008, the Tasmanian Devil was assessed and classified as “Endangered” by the IUCN. In 2009, the Australian Government also listed the species as “Endangered”, under national environmental law.

*Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) is an infectious cancer that only affects Tasmanian Devils, and is transmitted through biting, fighting and mating. Since the first official case of DFTD in Australia in 1996, there has been a decline of up to 50-70 per cent of the Tasmanian Devil population across the majority of Tasmania.

Record 51 Tasmanian Devils Born at Devil Ark


A record 51 Tasmanian Devil joeys were born this season at Devil Ark, a free-range breeding facility aimed at saving this iconic Australian marsupial from extinction.

This brings the total number of joeys born at Devil Ark to more than 250 since it was founded in 2010 to establish an insurance population for the now-endangered Tasmanian Devil.

19424508_1720756647953859_9021157066506608210_nPhoto Credit: Devil Ark

More than 90% of the wild Tasmanian Devil population has disappeared in the past 20 years due to an aggressive, transmissible cancer called Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD).  The Australian island state of Tasmania is the only wild home of these unique creatures.

Tasmanian Devils are marsupials, so like all marsupials, the jellybean-sized babies are born in a very underdeveloped state.  About 30-50 are born, and they must crawl from the birth canal into their mother’s pouch immediately - a distance of about three inches. But female Devils have only four teats, so only the first four to attach to a teat will survive. The babies remain attached to a teat constantly for about three months. When they emerge from the pouch, they will ride on mom’s back.  

The Devils at Devil Ark are one of dozens insurance populations in Australia and at zoos around the world. DFTD is a fatal condition and has spread rapidly across Tasmania, driving the need for disease-free, genetically diverse populations as possibly the only way to save Devils from extinction.

DFTD is one of only four known naturally occurring transmissible cancers. It is transmitted like a contagious disease through biting and close contact, which occurs when wild Tasmanian Devils feed in groups, battling for access to a carcass. Devils develop large facial tumors which make eating difficult. Affected animals die from starvation.

Tasmania Devils play a vital role in Tasmania’s ecosystems by scavenging on dead animals. They are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Researchers are working to better understand DFTD, which was only identified in 1996.    

What The Devil! Ever Seen a Bottle-feeding Baby Tasmanian Joey?

Taz nurse

Known for their feisty demeanor, Tasmanian Devil babies show quite another side. These cheeky little devils are joeys from Australia's Devil Ark, the largest conservation breeding program for the Tasmanian Devil on mainland Australia. The iconic Tasmanian marsupial is at serious risk of extinction from the highly contagious Devil facial tumor disease (DFTD). Devil Ark's ambitious breeding program might be the key to its survival.  It's believed that in the next 20 years the Tasmanian Devil could be extinct on Tasmania due to DFTD's rampant effects. Since its discovery in 1996, numbers of wild devils have plummeted across Tasmania, and in some areas, more than 85% of the wild population is now extinct.

So it is a battle against time! Now genetic diversity is also rapidly diminishing in Tasmania, so at Devil Ark, they are racing to breed large numbers of devils to preserve the species. There are currently more than 120 devils at the Ark and the goal is to have 360 individuals there by 2016.

Taz hands

Taz Yelp

Taz 2
Photo Credit: Devil Ark

Tasmanian Devils are known for their fierce demeanor, but watch these babies nursing and playing and you'll see a different side!

Read much more about Devil Ark and the important work they are doing below the fold:

Continue reading "What The Devil! Ever Seen a Bottle-feeding Baby Tasmanian Joey?" »

Three Little Devils Are Hopeful Sign!


The Alma Park Zoo's baby Tasmanian Devils (Imps) are starting to make themselves known as they begin to venture out of the den with their mom, Lilith. All three are girls and what is even more remarkable is the fact they are all completely black. Devils usually have a white band across their chest or white across their rump, but not these girls. To have one completely black would be rare, to have three is quite exceptional.

These little imps are also significant as they are the great grand devils (children) of individuals with Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD) - but are of course disease free themselves. This means that they are unrelated to all other devils on the mainland and so play a vital role in the genetic diversity of the captive devil population.




Photo credit: Alma Park Zoo

The iconic Tasmanian Devil is at serious risk of extinction from the highly contagious Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD) and wild populations are disappearing fast.

In a bid to prevent extinction, Devils must be captive bred in facilities well away from the disease – these include mainland Australian zoos, and the unique Devil Ark, which consists of large free ranging natural enclosures.

Tasmanian Devil Joeys Health Check Brings Hope for Species


Taronga Zoo’s Tasmanian Devil keepers got their first hands-on check today of three little Tasmanian Devil joeys, the first to be born at Taronga this breeding season. The youngsters, born to second-time mother, Nina, were snuggled tightly in their maternal nest and keepers gently lifted them out to check their body condition and determine their sex. 

Tasmanian Devil keeper Tony Britt-Lewis said: “We have known for some time that Nina was carrying joeys in her pouch, and now they’re older, Nina will leave them alone in her nest which is the perfect opportunity for us to do an overall check. We were really happy to discover that of the three, one is a female, and she will play a vital role in the breeding program in the future. The other two are males and one of them is already showing signs of being very feisty.”

With Tasmanian Devils under threat from extinction due to a contagious cancer that causes fatal facial tumours, the birth of these three joeys is encouraging for the species and for the network of mainland zoos managing insurance populations. Sadly, the fate of wild Tasmanian Devils is not promising, with the species 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.




Photo Credit: Taronga Zoo

Britt-Lewis added, “After successfully mothering a litter of four joeys last year, Nina is definitely a great mum. This year’s litter makes a total of seven offspring, proving she is a significant contributor to the insurance breeding program for this iconic Australian species.”


Tasmanian Devil Quartet: Three Boys and One Valuable Little Girl


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."


Continue reading "Tasmanian Devil Quartet: Three Boys and One Valuable Little Girl" »

Tas Devil Baby and Wombat Joey for Zoo Australia

Zoo Australia, home of the late great Steve Irwin, has welcomed a bevy of babies this spring* including a Wombat Joey, two Tasmanian Devil pups, and a few Koala joeys. The zoo's head of mammals, Tammy Forge says of the little Devils, "These little guys will play an important role in Tasmanian devil conservation efforts, and will be ambassadors for their species here at Australia Zoo." Below are pictures of the Devils, follow by a shot of the Wombat Joey peeping out from his Mom's backwards facing pouch.  Wombats are designed for digging, so this special pouch keeps baby clean while Mom forages with formidable claws.

Tasmanian devil australia zoo


Photo Credits: Australia Zoo

Tasmanian Devils Get a Checkup

As the Taronga Zoo vet staff performs check-ups on their new little Tasmanian Devil joeys, we check back in on these feisty little babies. Characterized by their black fur, pungent odour when stressed, extremely loud and disturbing screech, and ferocity when feeding1, Tasmanian Devils make poor dinner guests.  

Baby tasmanian devil joey taronga zoo 1 

Baby tasmanian devil joey taronga zoo 2 

Baby tasmanian devil joey taronga zoo 3 

Baby tasmanian devil joey taronga zoo 4Photo credits: Lorinda Taylor / Taronga Zoo 

As mentioned in our previous post, a recent epidemic has devastated the Tasmanian Devil population and researchers are racing to protect the species. You can help by learning more and donating.

1. Couldn't resist using this perfectly worded line from the BBC.

Four Baby 'Taz's' Live Up to Their Reputation

Today at Sydney's Taronga Zoo, four Tasmanian Devil joeys underwent paternity examinations to determine their father. The tests are being done in an effort to aide the survival of the newly endangered species in the wild, which has been struck by a devastating disease. As you can see in the pictures below, even baby Tasmanian Devils liveup to their feisty and ill-tempered reputation. 

Tas devils taronga more light 




09ddevilshr6_full Photos: Getty Images

*** UPDATE ***

The Taronga Zoo has just supplied us with some additional images that prove Tasmanian Devil joeys aren't always so worked up. Looks like they can even be sweet, for a moment or two...

Baby Tasmanian Devil joeys taronga zoo 1 rs 

Baby Tasmanian Devil joeys taronga zoo 2 rs

To learn more about how you can help to save the Tasmanian Devil in the wild, please visit this site.