Bringing Devils Back into the Tasmanian Wild: San Diego Zoo Partners to Fight Extinction of Species

The fight to save the Tasmanian devil from extinction took an important step Sept. 26, with the release of 20 individuals into the wild at Narawntapu National Park in Northern Tasmania. The release was part of a collaborative effort by the Wild Devil Recovery Project and the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program. Each of the animals has been vaccinated against Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), which has brought this unique species to the brink of extinction.

The vaccination program is a new one, and its effectiveness will be evaluated as part of this reintroduction program. Re-wilding through insurance population animals is an important part of the conservation program, as it assists in increasing the genetic diversity of suppressed wild populations, as well as directly increasing numbers. The animals released in Narawntapu National Park will join existing devils already living in the Park.

Save the Tasmanian Devil Program staff will be monitoring the devil population over time to evaluate the success of this initiative. The 20 devils (11 males and 9 females) come from an insurance population housed in free-range enclosures at Bicheno and Launceston, Tasmania.

“This field trial is a tangible step in the journey to bring the devil back into the Tasmanian wild,” said Bob Wiese, Ph.D., chief life sciences officer for San Diego Zoo Global. “The next milestone will be to see them start breeding in the wild and thus further ensuring their chances of survival into the future.”

The Wild Devil Recovery Project places emphasis on population monitoring, field research, and testing of possible vaccines and immunization techniques to manage wild devil populations.

The Wild Devil Recovery Project is a joint initiative between the Menzies Institute for Medical Research and the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, and is supported through funding from the Tasmanian Government.

The San Diego Zoo is a proud partner of the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, based in Tasmania. The program collaborates with research institutes and zoos from around the world to save the endangered Tasmanian devil. For more information on the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, go to

The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program is a government initiative established in 2003 in response to the threat of Devil Facial Tumour Disease. Its mission is to combat the epidemic, to ensure the survival of the Tasmanian devil and achieve the endangered species’ recovery in the wild as an ecologically functioning entity.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.