The first data from the Tarkine Devil Project is in and it’s good news for Tasmanian devils in the Tarkine. Tourism pioneers Tarkine Trails have retrieved two months worth of images from 14 motion sensor cameras placed along their six day rainforest walk in the Tarkine’s heart, the Savage River Rainforest.
“We placed 14 cameras along the rainforest track in mid October” said Mark Davis, co-owner of Tarkine Trails. “Contrary to common assumption, we’ve known for years that there are devils living in rainforest and now we’ve got the proof”.
The cameras are part of a 45 camera strong sentinel monitoring program granted to the project by the Save the Tasmanian Devil Appeal. Rolled out across three locations that Tarkine Trails use for their walks, the cameras and the devil project are now a major point of focus for any Tarkine Trails experience.
Davis explained “We’re really happy with the results so far, our guides are loving the research and so are the participants on our walks. Every single camera we placed caught images of devils. Better still, from the photos we’ve captured, not one devil has displayed signs of the facial tumour disease, which is a huge relief.”
Spotted-tail Quolls, feral cats, Echidnas, native mice and Pademelons were also photographed.
“We captured a total of 1283 images of devils, many of which will be the same animal, but there are clearly many individuals in that number” said Davis.
The Tarkine Devil project is an initiative of Tarkine Trails and Bonorong wildlife sanctuary. Born of a shared desire to help save Tasmania’s most iconic species, the project has also harnessed the support of several key stakeholders including renowned devil expert Menna Jones.
“Already I’m impressed and pleasantly surprised by the results we are getting” said Jones. “Our expectation was that devils wouldn’t inhabit a rainforest mass the size of the Tarkine due to lack of food. But the results we are getting suggest otherwise. There is plenty of work to be done yet, but I’m very excited by the results so far, especially the absence of facial tumour disease.”
Under the guidance of Jones, honours project student Amy Saunders is working side by side with Tarkine Trails to collate the data being retrieved from the cameras. By May this year, Saunders will have completed a population survey of Devils in the Tarkine, research that has never previously been possible.
“Mostly my project involves comparing the distribution and abundance of devils in disturbed versus undisturbed areas” said Saunders.“ I met with Tarkine Trails a couple of days ago to go through the images and the results are wonderful. As I was hoping, many of the devils are standing on their hind legs to reach the bait and there are several images exposing their facial area. This is important to help me detect signs of the disease. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s very rewarding to get the images back and see healthy devils out there. Now we need to head back to the coast and gather the first round of data from there, it’s a huge undertaking, but very worthwhile” said Saunders.
With key support from the Tasmanian Land Conservancy, Outdoor cameras Australia, the Bookend trust, Battery World Tasmania and communications agency Green Team Australia, the Tarkine Devil Project aims to achieve a further 10 years of research.
“This is a very costly exercise so we’re inviting support from all quarters to help us reach the line” said Davis. “As our partnerships strengthen, I’m becoming more and more confident that we can achieve our ten year goal”.