VIDEO: TODD KING AND NICK LOVERING
WORDS: GEOFF VIVIAN
Three Tasmanian Devils that escaped near Pinjarra yesterday were part of a breeding program to save the species.
A contagious cancer called Devil Facial Tumour Disease had drastically reduced the wild population in Tasmania.
Peel Zoo owner David Cobbold said captive breeding programs of disease-free devils may be the only way to stop them all becoming extinct.
“Ironically, we are one of the best breeders in Australia,” Mr Cobbold said.
Mr Cobbold said all of the little devils the zoo had reared in the past five years were from a single breeding male.
“The three that escaped would have gone on to be stud males,” he said.
“They are the biggest, boofiest devils that we’ve got so they’re obviously carrying genes.”
“It’s a huge loss for the zoo.”
Mr Cobbold said his biggest fear was that the young males would fall victim to dogs or road accidents, but he hoped the escapees would return of their own accord.
“The breeding season starts about February, and they’ve got a great sense of smell,” he said.
“We’ve got the only females in Western Australia.”
Mr Cobbold asked people to keep an eye out for the Devils, particularly around Sutton Street and Pinjarra Road, about 2.5 kilometres south of Pinjarra.
He said they liked to bask in the sun at this time of year, and to shelter in hollow trees and shallow, earthen burrows that they lined with grass and leaves.
Anyone who sees a Devil, or some sign of the marsupials, should call Peel Zoo on 9531 4322 or 0400 788 289.