Published on January 26th, 2012 | by john.weir0
Help save the Tasmanian Devil
Guests on guided, multi-day walks in Tasmaniaâ€™s remote Tarkine rainforest wilderness in 2012 are among the first people to monitor and view groundbreaking new research designed to save Tasmaniaâ€™s most iconic creature â€“ the Tasmanian devil â€“ with encouraging results so far.
Tarkine Trails is Australiaâ€™s only rainforest walk, and the pristine wilderness in the North West corner of Tasmania is one of the last strongholds of devils unaffected by the mysterious and fatal Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) that has been decimating the population of the worldâ€™s largest surviving carnivorous marsupial.Â Tarkine Trails has been running the walks in the little-visited corner of Australiaâ€™s only island state for ten years and last year opened the Tiger Ridge standing camp that accommodates up to 12 guests.
In a unique tourism experiment, called The Tarkine Devil Project,Â Tarkine Trails and Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary near Hobart â€“ two tourism businesses with a shared passion for the Tasmanian devil, which is found nowhere else on earth, have joined together to place 40 motion-sensing cameras along Tarkine Trailsâ€™ walking tracks.Â The cameras are being used to track populations of devils in a region described by University of Tasmania devil expert and project supervisor Dr Menna Jones as â€œa blank spot in our understanding of devil and other carnivore conservation.â€Â It is also one of the few areas of Tasmania into which the cancer has not yet spread.
â€œIn 15 years we have lost 80% of our Tasmanian devils to the Devil Facial Tumour Disease,â€ says Mark Davis, owner of Tarkine Trails, a Tasmanian guided-walks company.Â â€œThis is crunch time and, along with our friends at Bonorong, we are going to do something about it.â€
Tarkine Trails guides, on top of their usual duties, are carrying with them batteries and memory cards that will keep the cameras running all year round.Â They collect the data as they go.
The tourism pioneers at Tarkine Trails have already retrieved two months worth of images (see below)Â from the 14 motion sensor cameras placed along their six day rainforest walk in the Tarkineâ€™s heart, the Savage River Rainforest.Â Davis says. â€œContrary to common assumption, weâ€™ve known for years that there are devils living in rainforest and now weâ€™ve got the proof.Â Weâ€™re really happy with the results so far, our guides are loving the research and so are the participants on our walks.Â Every single camera we placed caught images of devils. Better still, from the photos weâ€™ve captured, not one devil has displayed signs of the facial tumour disease, which is a huge relief.â€
The really clever thing about this project is the way that it uses the resources we have available,â€ said Davis.Â â€œOur guides regularly walk through these remote areas.Â Along with our walkers, they will act as field researchers where it has previously been too expensive to conduct research.â€
â€œThe Tarkine is really such an unknown area for devils,â€ said Bonorong director Greg Irons, who has funded the set up and management of the project as well as setting up Tasmaniaâ€™s onlyÂ 24-hour wildlife rescue service. â€œWhile we are breeding devils in captivity at Bonorong and elsewhere, the best chance the devil has is to survive in the wild.Â But we need to know much more about them if we are going to ensure they do not go the way of the Tassie Tiger, now presumed extinct.â€
At the end of each day, guests view the images collected by the cameras, giving them a unique insight into the research that they are helping to make possible. Echidnas, pademelons and quolls have also been caught on camera.
â€œThis project is about enfranchising people,â€ says Davis.Â â€œItâ€™s about letting people know that even while they are on a holiday and having an amazing experience, they can be part of something special and worthwhile.â€
Dr Chris Boland, Science Manager of the Tasmanian Governmentâ€™s Save the Tasmanian Devil Program said: â€œI really like the way the project enables the community to engage in valuable scientific research.Â In fact, I think it is a really unique and valuable approach.Â The project not only collects scientific data from a remote part of the state, it also serves to educate the community about devils, and gives the community a sense of ownership over the plight of these amazing Tasmanian creatures.â€
The project is designed to run for at least ten years with initial funding coming from a grant from the Tasmanian governmentâ€™s Save the Tasmanian Devil Project Appeal.
The cameras have been operating for two months now and results are uplifting.Â â€œThereâ€™s devils everywhere,â€ says Davis.Â â€œWeâ€™re finding them in places we didnâ€™t expect them.Â Itâ€™s so exciting for the guests to sit down at the end of the day, grab a glass of wine and discover what is really wandering around out there.â€
For more information and short videos on the Tarkine Devil Project, and on the available walks, visitÂ http://www.tarkinetrails.com.
For further information on visiting Tasmania seeÂ www.discovertasmania.co.uk