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Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) Fact Sheet: Population & Conservation Status

Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii)

Population Status

  • No global population estimates available (DPIPWE 2019)
    • Census surveys have been completed in only a few areas
    • "Thousands of mature individuals" estimated
  • Population declines of 77%, on average, in areas affected by Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD) (Lazenby et al. 2018)
  • Small population reintroduced to mainland Australia in 2020

Conservation Status

IUCN Status

  • Endangered (2008 assessment) (Hawkins et al. 2008)
    • High risk of extinction in the wild
    • Population on whole is estimated to have declined more than 60% since 1998
    • DFTD is expected to continue to spread

CITES Status

  • Not listed (UNEP 2019)

Other designations

  • 2006: Listed as a vulnerable species in Tasmania (Australian Government 2011)
  • 2008: The Tasmanian devil’s status was formally upgraded to ‘endangered’ under Tasmania’s Threatened Species Protection Act 1995
  • Four management actions suggested by Save the Tasmanian Devil Program (Hawkins et al. 2008) (Jones et al. 2007):
    • Establish insurance populations of founder devils (Hawkins et al. 2008)
      • DFTD-free enclosures, currently in four locations on Devil's Island, Tasmania with other sites being considered (Brennan 2011)
      • Maintain devils which could someday be introduced back into the wild
    • Selection for resistance
      • Researchers urge efforts to determine whether devil populations in western Tasmania have genetic differences that protect them from DFTD (Hamede et al. 2011)
      • Given genetic resistance, perhaps assisted selection could introduce resistant genotypes back into the wild population
    • Suppression of disease
      • Detection and euthanasia of infected individuals
      • May not be possible to suppress disease entirely
    • Vaccine and treatment research
      • Vaccine potentially promising
      • Treatment is too expensive for the entire wild population but perhaps may be feasible for the valuable managed care bloodline

Threats to Survival

(Hawkins et al. 2008)

  • Devil Facial Tumor Disease threatens extinction (Quammen 2008):
  • Lesser threats:
    • Cars on roads (devils attracted to road kills)
    • Predation by dogs or foxes
    • Persecution by humans still exists in some areas

Health Troubles

Tasmanian devil with mouth partially open

Tasmanian devils are at risk of going extinct from deadly facial cancers.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Australian Government (2011)
Brennan (2011)
Hamede et al. (2011)
Hawkins et al. (2008)
Jones et al. (2004)
McCallum et al. (2007)
Quammen (2008a,b)
Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service (2011)

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