A successful breeding season has seen Healesville Sanctuary’s Tasmanian Devil program produce 17 beautiful babies between five mothers.
The Tasmanian Devil joeys are between four and six months old, and have all now left their mother’s pouch to get down to the serious business of learning to climb trees and play fight with their siblings.
Threatened Mammals Co-ordinator Monika Zabinskas attributes the thriving breeding program to plenty of planning and close observation of the Devil’s behaviour.
“We pay really close attention to the Devils to find the best time to pair them up for breeding, Ms Zabinskas said. “The clues can be quite subtle, like a female becoming more timid or less energetic during certain times.
“The boys will tend to start digging at the boundary between them and a female, or lay down along the fence closest to her.”
The older joeys are now big enough to have some meat in their diet as well as milk. They are starting to explore the world away from their mothers, and are at their most rambunctious age.
“They’re exploring and testing absolutely everything they find, learning to climb trees and discovering the boundaries of the world.
“It’s definitely a trying time for their mums. We’ll often see joeys hanging on their mum’s back, or from her tail and ears. The mums might shake them off, or even roll over to get a bit of relief.”
Healesville Sanctuary breeds Tasmanian Devils in partnership with the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program and the Zoo and Aquarium Association. Tasmanian Devils are endangered, with the wild population at serious risk from a contagious and deadly cancer that causes facial tumours.
When these joeys grow up they will play their own role in the Save the Devil Program, either by breeding the next generation or becoming ambassador animals at the Sanctuary or partner institutions.
While Healesville Sanctuary is temporarily closed to members and visitors, animal lovers at home can stay connected with the Zoo’s animals through the Zoos Victoria live stream cameras at www.zoo.org.au/animals-at-home