Little devils arrive at Taronga Western Plains Zoo | Photos, video

Two healthy litters of Tasmanian devil joeys have been born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, marking one of the most successful years to date for the zoo’s conservation breeding program.

The first litter of three joeys arrived on March 19 to mother Lana, with keepers recently able to take a close look at each and confirm their sex.

Another female, Pooki, birthed four joeys more recently on June 19, that are yet to emerge from the pouch.

“We’re very pleased to see nurturing maternal instincts from both Lana and Pooki, who are both two-year-old females and first-time mothers,” senior keeper Steve Kleinig said.

“The three joeys born in March – two males and one female – are now weaned (meaning they have left mother Lana’s pouch) but they still remain close by her side. They are now playing with each other and exploring independently outside the den.

“The four joeys born in June are starting to open their eyes and become more aware of their surroundings. While they are still attached to their mother's teats, we’re expecting they will begin to leave their mother’s pouch in the coming weeks.”

Taronga Western Plains Zoo is part of a national insurance population program designed to help save the Tasmanian Devil from becoming extinct as a result of the Devil Facial Tumour Disease.

The Zoo’s breeding success this year is the result of a more targeted approach, and has benefited from favourable breeding recommendations.

These are based on the unique characteristics and genetics of a breeding pair and, combined with their compatibility upon meeting, can determine breeding success.

“We are continuing to collaborate with other breeding institutions to improve the long-term viability of our program, such as Devil Ark in the Barrington Tops, where Lana and Pooki came from, and Tasmania’s Trowunna Wildlife Park, where the father originated,” Steve said.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo has two breeding facilities for the Tasmanian Devil located behind the scenes. The Zoo has bred 31 healthy Tasmanian Devil joeys so far – a significant boost to the regional zoo-based insurance population of this endangered species.

With Tasmanian Devil numbers in the wild currently dwindling to between 15,000 and 50,000 individuals, every birth is significant.

The mainland breeding program of which the Zoo is a part could play an important role in helping to re-establish healthy wild populations of the species in Tasmania if needed in future.