All the latest news and views from the CPSU team
Devil program in danger
The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program is under threat and we need your help to encourage the Federal and State Ministers to act immediately to ensure its ongoing work. Please read on and then act by contacting the relevant Ministers to ask they guarantee the future of the Program.
If the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program collapses due to lack of commitment from both State and Federal Governments it would a terrible legacy and history would judge them very harshly.
Despite the iconic nature of this native animal, funding for its protection isn’t guaranteed – its future is not secure. There’s no certainty around future funding for keeping this iconic species alive and the disease understood and at bay.
There’s a big question mark hanging around Federal funding and with the financial woes of the State Government, it’s not clear they are committed to maintaining this essential program if the Federal Government withdraws or diminishes funding.
Today, on National Threatened Species Day, the CPSU calls on all levels of government to commit to funding for this important program. The day marks the death of the last Tasmanian tiger at Hobart Zoo in 1936 – and timely day to ask governments to commit to helping our devils.
People who work this Program play an important role of investigating and limiting the spread of the devastating Devil Facial Tumour Disease. They care for both devils with Devil Facial Tumour Disease as well as healthy devils to help preserve these native animals.
And it’s not just devils that they protect; workers in the program also look after the endangered Orange Bellied Parrot.
In a letter to the CPSU, the Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage Brian Wightman said the Commonwealth Caring for our Country funding ends in mid-2013.
Mr Wightman said the findings from a review of the Caring for our Country program would shape the Save the Tasmanian Devil program for 2013-2018. He said the State Government would make a strong case to the Commonwealth for ongoing funding for the devils program. He did not say that, should the Federal Government not continue funding, that the State would pick up the responsibility.
Even if the program stopped tomorrow, the captive and semi-captive devils would still need ongoing care.
Surely the demise of the program would result in a public outcry – not just from Tasmania but from around the world. It would be a national shame.
The CPSU calls Members to email Environment Ministers in both State and Federal Governments and ask for them to commit to funding this vital program.
We talked to Field Officers on contracts in the program to find out the important work they do.
Clare Lawrence: field officer
Clare’s been working in the Save the Tasmanian Devil program for over three years now, mainly looking after devils in captivity.
This captive management is essential for this iconic Tasmanian species – creating an insurance population of healthy devils as the battle goes on to stop the Devil Facial Tumour Disease.
It’s a hands-on job as well as feeding devils in captivity, Clare and the other Field Officers, also means keeping these animals alert and interested.
“We do a range of weird and wonderful things to stimulate their senses
“It’s a large part of it because we don’t want them to go bananas in captivity.
“To enrich their lives we do some pretty mad stuff sometimes,” Clare said.
“Whether it’s sprinkling herbs in their enclosure so they’ve got something new to smell to making papier-mâché balls with food inside, which they have to break into.” Of course it’s important for Clare and other officers to maintain the devils’ living area, which involves cleaning and other duties.
Keeping an eye on the devils’ health is another important part of the job.
“This means a lot of day-to-day monitoring, from their weights to where they are at in their breeding cycles.”
Clare helps to care for 25 devils at Taroona as well as 12 or so devils at New Town, which are held for continuous research.
She also looks after endangered orange bellied parrots, feeding and caring for these rare birds on a daily basis.
Field officers like Clare also care for semi-captive devils in free range enclosures around the state, at Bridport, Cressy and Freycinet.
Clare also care for semi-captive devils in free range enclosures around the state, helps out in the field, monitoring and trapping devils and is involved in the devil road kill program.
Holly Devereaux: senior field officer
Holly’s been working in the Save the Tasmanian Devil program since April 2008, in five different contracts. She said everything points toward the program being long term, with a lot of money and other resources put in to the project already.
Holly said because there were a lot of people on part-time contracts –it meant job insecurity, with so these workers constantly looking for more stable work.
“People are always coming and going, which makes life difficult for workers in the program.”
With a Degree in Zoology and Botany, it was her interest in wildlife conservation that attracted her to the program, which she used to volunteer in.
She’s worked as a Utility Officer, a field officer and is currently a senior field officer. All of these positions involved working with Tasmanian Devils.
One of her jobs as a senior field officer is to run field trips, which last seven nights. This often sees Holly away for nine days at a time.
“The first trip I went with a Field Officer and a volunteer to Rosebery for a week. “We monitored how far west the disease front had moved.”
“I help with the disease front surveys once a year.”
Her work also means monitoring projects, which could mean working solo or in a team.
Tasks vary from trapping devils, taking measurements, maintaining equipment, and reassessing projects.
“We’ve also got the peninsula isolation projects happening, where we’re seeing if we can seclude healthy populations of devils.
After the field work, Holly’s job also entails plenty of office work. This involves writing reports about trips and a lot of data entry.
Holly’s passionate about the work, saying the program is a fantastic way to help protect this iconic Tasmanian species.
“The job, both field work and captive work, is very hands-on, and there’s definitely a satisfaction that comes with that.”
Reegan Warrener: field officer
Employed as a Utility Officer in March 2008 then got a job outside the program when the contract ran out.
Reegan then successfully applied for a Field Officer position in April 2009.
She’s been on three contracts, only two of them back to back.
Her current contract ended on August 16 this year.
Reegan has a personal and professional interest in conservation, which is why she found the program so attractive in the first place.
“It’s an important program.”
Previously working in the field trapping animals for monitoring or the insurance population, for the last two year’s Reegan’s mainly worked with the captive insurance program.
Devils are kept at Mount Pleasant in Launceston, at Cressy and at Freycinet. These animals include old trial devils, old devils, and genetically important devils.
“The environment captive devils are in, is as good as any captive environment,” Reegan said. “We take biosecurity very, very seriously.”
That means clean gumboots, double gloves to ensure the disease doesn’t spread.
As a Field Officer, Reegan’s duties include feeding devils, making sure pens are hygienic, ensuring the devils have adequate shelter, building nest boxes and high points in the enclosures for the devils.
Her dedication to the animal is clear.
“Every day we look at every devil, to see if they are healthy, eating and if their stats are appropriate. “It’s kind of your life – it’s a job that you get a phone call for, whether you’re at work or not.”
“If a devil is unwell, you can’t just leave it. “It’s just the nature of working with living creatures.”
Devils with facial tumour disease need extra careful monitoring, because of their condition; their health can fluctuate in just one day. “We’re the people who let the vets and scientists know what’s going on with the devils. “Devil facial tumour disease is a terrible, terrible thing.”
Eventually the immunity of devils with facial cancers wears down and they can no longer compete for their food.
Sometimes their teeth fall out. This makes it even more difficult for these animals to eat.
“In the wild they can live a few months,” Reegan said. In captivity devils with DFTD usually last a bit longer, with antibiotics and monitoring.
Data collected is used by UTAS, the Menzies Institute and other bodies, as well as internally by DPIPWE.
Reegan said the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program was essentially the experienced and dedicated people who worked within it.
She said she felt like she had made a contribution to the welfare of this iconic animal during her time in the program.