Better the devil you know

Dr Menna Jones doesn't mince words when it comes to Devil Facial Tumour Disease. "DFTD is east of here, and travelling this way at about 8km a year," she told volunteers at the AGS Behind the scenes: Wild Devils expedition, at Arthur River in north-west Tasmania, in early March. "The disease will reach Arthur River in the next few years, and devil populations will crash, as they have elsewhere in the state. That's certain. What we're not sure about - we're here to find out - is what happens to everything else in an ecosystem when devils are no longer the top marsupial predator." For the next several days, led by Menna and her University of Tasmania (UTAS) research team, AGS volunteers helped check traps for mammals of all sizes and record results (devils, spotted-tailed quolls and grumpy brushtailed possums, to name the larger animals), undertook bird and habitat surveys and – a particular favourite – completed night-time animal-count transects along the Arthur River-Marrawah road. They also took time to see some wild Tassie west coast sights – the high dunes and fabulous views near Rebecca Lagoon a particular favourite.  At week's end the group travelled north to Woolnorth for a look at the historic property (established in the 1820s) and to enjoy a "devil banquet" – a close-up view of wild devils feeding on a wallaby carcass. On the return trip to Launceston, an overnight stop at Mole Creek allowed a stunning private tour of Trowunna Wildlife Park, led by its owner Androo Kelly – described by Menna as "a devil whisperer". Trowunna's devils are a key part of the insurance breeding population established by the Save the Tasmanian Devil program. A last-night cameo by a platypus in the creek behind the Mole Creek Hotel – our dinner stop – was the perfect finish. We're planning a future scientific expedition to assist a new UTAS ecology research program on beautiful Maria Island - site of the highly successful devil release program featured on ABC TV's recent "Devil Island" documentary series. Places will again be limited. Keep an eye on this website for more details, or email us if you'd like to know more.

Tasmanian Devil

Scientific Expedition

A report on the 2014 Expedition, 1–7 March