Scientific Name: Sarcophilus harrisii
Karen Murray, East Maitland, NSW
Brohdi Easton, Ourimbah, NSW
Sean Riley and Jess Rope, Castle Hill, NSW
Annie Medlicott, Ourimbah, NSW
Daniel McCallum, Fountaindale, NSW
Erin Medcraft and Philip Young, Goulburn, NSW
Ann Clemens, Bateman, NSW
Anne Miller, Woy Woy, NSW
Karen Murray, Warabrook NSW
Helen Murray, East Gosford NSW
Jared Williams, Toronto, NSW
Lauren Merrick, Avoca, NSW
Eli Knox, Wamberal, NSW
Adam Nicholas, Quakers Hill, NSW
Tasmanian devils were once widespread over much of mainland Australia, but are now only found in Tasmania. This is most probably as a result the introduction of the dingo which never reached Tasmania.
The Australian Reptile Park is working with a range of zoos and government agencies in the fight to save the Tasmanian devil from extinction. ‘Save the Tasmanian Devil Program’ is a joint project between the Tasmanian government (Department of Primary Industries and Water) and the Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria (ARAZPA) to establish an insurance population of this iconic species on the mainland, while research continues in Tasmania aimed at addressing the problem on the ground. Declared endangered in May ’08 due to the ravaging effects of a viral named Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), which unfortunately is mutating at an alarming rate with over 9 different strains already recorded. To date more than 90% of Tasmania’s devils have disappeared from the island.
A distinctive black, or very dark brown, with a white band across the chest, the male Tasmanian devil will attain a total length of around 90cm including the tail and weigh over 8kg. Females rarely exceed 80cm in length and 6kg in weight. The head is dog-like and the ears are large and pinkish-red in colour. The sense of smell is exceptionally acute enabling the animals to locate dead food items from many kilometres away.
The Tasmanian devil prefers wet sclerophyll forest or woodland. It usually lives in a log, cave or the disused burrow of another animal, emerging at night to scavenge and forage.
Despite its formidable reputation, most of the diet comprises carrion. However, adult devils will tackle anything as large as a small wallaby but they are by no means an agile or speedy hunter. Smaller items, such as insects, lizards and fish are also readily taken. Their jaws are extremely powerful and can break even the largest bones, all of which are eaten.
Tasmanian devils are sexually mature at the age of two years. Their mating period is within the months of March and April. The mother gives birth to two to four young, which attach to the teats in her pouch. The young are pouch-bound for around four months and then remain with the mother for a further five or six months before becoming independent. The life span is relatively short and most do not breed after they reach five or six years of age and rarely living more than about eight years.
The Tasmanian devil is solitary but not territorial, with a home range of up to 20 square kilometres in size that may overlap with the ranges of several others. Several adults may congregate at a carcass and feed together, although much squabbling and growling usually takes place.