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The New Year kicks off in grand style for Aussie Ark! Staff have conducted first-ever health checks on Tasmanian Devil joeys born last season at the Barrington Tops facility; another important step in confirming the genetic diversity of their globally significant ‘insurance population’.

Aussie Ark Curator Kelly Davis was in charge of the health checking of these new joeys, as part of a seasonal ‘audit’ of all of the Tasmanian Devils.

She said it was “an exciting time” up at the Barrington Tops Facility, with all the Tasmanian Devils being assessed and moved into different breeding enclosures in preparation for the 2023 breeding season.

“In catching our adults in order to move them around it’s also our first chance to capture and check the juveniles born in 2022,” Ms Davis said. “This includes Sandy or Sandra D – in honour of the late Olivia Newton John’s character in the feature film ‘Grease’ – who was part of that 2022 cohort.”

All these new 2022-born joeys undergo a rigorous health check, including microchipping, naming, establishing their gender, recording their identity with photographs, and giving each one a body score for health and fitness.

Another vital step is ascertaining the parentage of each joey, to confirm genetic diversity in the population.

“Because they are independent from Mum when we conduct these health checks, we don’t know who their Mum is and we certainly don’t know who their Dad is,” Ms Davis explained. “So we take a small tissue biopsy from one of their ears, which is sent to a genetic testing facility. They have all of the data for our Mums and Dads on file,  so in a couple of months they can tell us who each joey belongs to.”

As part of this health checking, staff also share with the world for the very first time secret camera-trap footage recording behaviour of joeys with their mothers.

The footage shows larger joeys riding the backs of their mothers, which Aussie Ark Curator Kelly Davis explains as transitional behaviour.

“Throughout the year we’ve been monitoring our females with motion-sensored cameras, seeing the joeys develop and finally growing up to independent juveniles,” Ms Davis said. “At around four months old the joeys no longer fit into mum’s pouch very well so instead they hitch a ride on their back.”

Once each Devil joey is processed they are housed in an intensive enclosure at the facility until the Devils have settled into a cohesive group, after which they are transferred into one of the larger managed environmental enclosures.

This current work with the emerging stars of Aussie Ark once again demonstrates the care as well as high science behind securing this “insurance population” of Tasmanian Devils. 

Aussie Ark would like to thank their partners WIRES, Rewild and Glencore for supporting their Tasmanian Devil program, as well as their community donors and supporters.

You can support Aussie Ark and our Tasmanian devil program by donating today!