Friday, 2 March 2012

Love is in the air @ Devil's Ark



Following the first successful breeding season at Devil Ark last year, the next season is almost upon us.

The female Tasmanian devil is preparing her body for the mating season, which commences this month and sees the skin around her neck thicken and her pouch deepen to accommodate her joeys. The female breeds at age two years and can rear up to four joeys a year for an average of three years.

The female chooses the male and mating occurs over about a 7 day period. If she doesn’t get pregnant with her first ovulation, she’ll have two more cycles before the end of June. The species is not monogamous and she could have many partners if not guarded by the male.

The process is called “mate guarding” and sees the male sprawled across the entrance of the den in which the female resides to prevent other unwelcome male visits. Gestation is a short 21 days, and then around 30 tiny devils are born. The mother has only four teats, so only the first to arrive and fuse themselves to her survive. They will feed from their mother for six months and venture outside of the den in Spring.

The juvenile devils will become fully independent by December. Last year’s Devil Ark babies are now in the crèche at Devil Ark and will be moved into free range enclosure when they reach breeding age next year.

Devil Ark’s first breeding season last year resulted in 26 baby devils. This is the highest number of joeys born in captivity.

Devil Ark is the largest breeding facility for the endangered Tasmanian devil and is now home to almost 100 devils in large free range enclosures that mimic the natural landscape of their native Tasmania. With the insidious DFTD (Devil Facial Tumour Disease) now in the Tasmania’s North West, the devil’s last stronghold, extinction in the wild seems inevitable.

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