Tasmanian-bred devils have key DNA that is valuable for the future of the species.
In synchronous timing for National Threatened Species Day on Friday, Tasmania Zoo announced that devils bred at the zoo carried unique genetic variants not found in other devils in the Insurance Population.
The Insurance Population was established between the Zoo and Aquarium Association and Tasmanian government to maintain back-up captive populations of genetically diverse animals.
Ancestors of Tasmania Zoo’s devils originated from wild animals throughout the state and formed the basis for the Devil’s Heaven breeding program, which has almost 50 devils managed separately within bio-secure pens.
Genetic testing shows these devils have private alleles, or gene variants, not represented in other devil populations, zoo manager Rochelle Penney said.
“We always knew our devils would turn out to be something extra special, and we are excited to be able to support conservation, working together with ZAA and other zoos,” she said.
Tasmania Zoo’s devils will start being integrated with the Insurance Population and exchanged with other zoos and populations destined for release from 2019.
This allows Devil’s Heaven bloodlines to be shared, which increases genetic diversity for wild and captive devils.