Oral presentation- Open Session 12th International Mammalogical Congress

CANCELLED - Sympathy for the devil: Captive-management style did not influence survival, body mass change or diet of Tasmanian devils after wild release (#464)

Kate Tuckson 1 , Samantha Fox 2 , Phil Wise 2 , David Pemberton 2 , Tracey Rogers 1
  1. E&ERC, School of BEES, UNSW Sydney Australia, Randwick, New South Wales, Australia
  2. Wildlife Monitoring and Management Section, Wildlife Management Branch, Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

The value of captive breeding for recovery programs of endangered carnivorous mammals is often questioned because of low post-release survival reported for founder animals following translocation. The aim of this study was to test the effect of rearing method on survival, body mass, and foraging behaviour of captive-raised Tasmanian devils, Sarcophilus harrisii, following release on an offshore island. Twenty-eight captive-raised devils were released onto an island; 19 had been raised in intensive captive-management facilities (IC) and 9 in free-range (22 ha) enclosures (FRE). Survival and body-mass change was compared between IC and FRE for up to 440 days post-release. Devil diet was assessed via scat and stable isotope analysis. A high proportion (96%) of the founders survived one year post-release. Pre-release captive-rearing method had no effect. Released devils gained an average of 14% of their original body mass, irrespective of captive-rearing method. There was very little difference in the diet of captive-reared devils released onto Maria Island relative to wild mainland. The intensity of captive rearing did not affect the survival of devils released onto Maria Island. This suggests that even devils held in IC facilities retain the innate behaviour required to scavenge and hunt prey. Our study provides preliminary evidence that the release of captive-raised Tasmanian devils onto off-shore islands is a viable conservation action.  Captive breeding programs and captive-raised founders can play a viable and valuable role in the conservation action plans for recovery programs of endangered carnivorous mammals.