Through Wellington Zoo’s partnership with the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, I was privileged to volunteer at Woolnorth, Northwest of Tasmania during the Program’s annual trapping, monitoring and surveillance of Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) in Tasmanian Devil (TD) populations between 25 and 26 July 2016. I was able to learn about the program, the efforts made to monitor and control DFTD and performing health checks in TD under the supervision and guidance of wildlife biologist, Stewart Huxtable, and veterinary officer, Sarah Michael (BVSc MVSc MANZCVS), graduate of the Masters program of Zoo Animal and Wildlife Health undertaken at Massey University and Wellington Zoo, New Zealand.
Over five days 110 TD were trapped from which the vet team sampled a total of 26 TD. This consisted of a screening for DFTD, physical examination, wound assessment, blood sampling, ear biopsies and faecal sample. All the data and samples collected are analysed and recorded in the programs database. Woolnorth is the only site in the STDP’s Annual Monitoring Program to be free of the DFTD and still remains free after the annual screening. Learning about the new strategies implemented by the Australian government and the program to ensure populations of TD are protected and survive in the wild, provides a better understanding of the insurance populations in 35 zoos, which includes the 4 Tasmanian devils in the Wellington Zoo animal collection. Annual monitoring of the TD in wild populations gives opportunities to volunteers such as myself to help towards conservation and saving TD in the wild which are affected by a unique transmissible cancer, making them an endangered species.