Keepers at Monarto Safari Park are celebrating a record breeding success for the region’s critical Tasmanian Devil breeding program ahead of reopening next week after their 13-week closure due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
A record nine female devils were recommended to breed this season, with three of them found to be carrying at least 10 joeys between them – the most recorded at the site during a single season!
Monarto Safari Park keeper Simon Dower says the Natives keepers are thrilled with the result.
“This is the first time we’ve had ten confirmed joeys so this is a really exciting time for the team,” says Simon.
“Devils are truly an iconic species and we all take great interest in their care and breeding.
“We try to disturb the devils as little as possible so we can’t be sure of the exact number of joeys each female has.
“We’ve sighted at least ten between them and mums Thumbelina, Xena and Violet are carrying very large pouches!”
After birth, the joeys will typically stay inside the comfort of their mothers’ pouch for three to four months, before spending another few months inside the den.
Once they start to emerge you might find them climbing aboard their mum’s back for a ride or spending time with their siblings playing, digging and learning how to use their highly-sensitive nose to check out their environment.
First-time dads Morocco, Roger and Laurence did a great job with keepers often observing them ‘den guarding’.
This involves the males becoming very protective of the females and resting across the opening of their den to deter intruders.
Sadly, Tasmanian Devil numbers have plummeted over the past two decades due to the aggressive Devil Facial Tumour Disease which has devastated wild populations.
As a conservation charity, Zoos SA works with many partner organisations across Australasia in a collaborative captive breeding and release program to safeguard this species from extinction.
A number of the devils that are bred at Monarto Safari Park will eventually join wild, disease-free populations of the species on Maria Island as part of the region’s critical recovery program.
To Simon and the team, every devil born here plays a special role.
“We’re so proud to have released a number of devils into the wild since 2012,” says Simon.
“Knowing that our animals are helping wild populations become genetically stronger is such a reward for us and something we strive for with the breeding program.
“The devils that remain here with us do a fantastic job as ambassadors for their wild cousins, helping to educate the public about their species’ plight in Tasmania.”
The new joeys will have their first health check in the coming weeks.
Visitors will be able to see Monarto Safari Park’s Tasmanian Devils when the park opens to the public next Monday, 29 June after months of closure.
To ensure visitor numbers are kept within SA Government guidelines, visitors are required to pre-purchase their tickets online before arriving at the park.
For more information and to purchase tickets, people can go to www.monartosafari.com.au/tickets.