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Macalester College

Publication Date

Spring 2015


The Tasmanian devil, Sarcophilus harrisi, is in danger of extinction in the wild due to the emergence of Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD). In an attempt to save the species the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program (STTDP) has initiated the creation of an ‘Insurance Population’. These insurance animals are a part of the captive breeding population (CBP) designed to conserve the genetic diversity of the species to preserve their ecological function for their future reintroduction into the wild. CBPs are located at various bio-secure zoos, wildlife parks, free-range enclosures (FREs), Tasmanian islands and peninsulas and sanctuaries like Devils@Cradle - Tasmanian devil Sanctuary. The goal of this study was to compare the behaviors of the juvenile devils recently moved to Devils@Cradle from Bridport FRE to the behaviors of wild devils to see if they were retaining wild characteristics in a more intensively managed captive situation. Using footage of devils from the wild and from Enclosure 13 a comparison was made to determine whether these devils destined to be released back into the wild were preserving their natural instincts vital to their survival and inclusion in wild populations. After analyzing almost 900 videos using an ethogram and a Chi square analysis this study has concluded that the pre-release devils in enclosure 13 do not appear to be behaving differently than their wild counterparts. The only behavior of concern found was a trend in the increase of daytime activity. However, this is believed to be associated with a recent shift to earlier feeding times and could be easily corrected. This serves as a promising sign for the preservation of this species through the use of captive breeding and managed populations until DFTD has been removed from the devil population and it is once again possible for their recovery in the wild.


Animal Sciences | Animal Studies | Asian Studies | Community-Based Research | Other Social and Behavioral Sciences | Veterinary Infectious Diseases | Veterinary Preventive Medicine, Epidemiology, and Public Health | Zoology


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