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Healesville Sanctuary

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devils, Sarcophilus harrisii, are the largest carnivorous marsupials in the world today.  Devils once occurred on mainland Australia, but have been confined to Tasmania since pre-European times. 

The survival of Tasmanian Devils is threatened by Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), and the species is now listed as Endangered.  DFTD causes tumours around the mouth, face and neck of Devils.  The disease develops rapidly and is fatal: affected animals die within six months of the lesions first appearing. 

Healesville Sanctuary aims to breed and manage a sustainable captive population of about 120 Devils for at least 10 years as part of the 'Save the Tasmanian Devil’ program.

DFTD is contagious - the cancer cells are spread by biting during feeding and mating.  It has spread across approximately 60% of Tasmania (Feb 2010) and has caused a rapid decline in wild Devil populations.

The ‘Save the Tasmanian Devil’ program was established to investigate the disease through population monitoring, disease diagnostics and wild population management.

As part of this program, Healesville Sanctuary is one of eighteen zoos taking Tasmanian Devils.  If the catastrophic decline of this species continues, these captive populations could become an essential source of animals for reintroduction to the wild.

During this time, authorities are working to eradicate the DFTD from Tasmania.  The overall insurance program aims to hold up to 1500 breeding animals (or ~5000 individuals in total over 50 years).

Zoos Victoria’s key roles in the recovery of the Tasmanian Devil are to:

  • Breed and manage a captive insurance population
  • Assist with population monitoring programs
  • Research captive breeding techniques and DFTD
  • Increase community awareness and support for the Tasmanian Devil. 

Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. This map may not be accurate to the latest information.


Plans and publications

PDF icon Download a comprehensive overview of what Zoos Victoria is doing to save the Tasmanian Devil (427 KB)

PDF icon Save the Tasmanian Devil Program: (2012) Annual Program Report 2010/2011 Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water & Environment (1.5 MB).

DSEWPC (2010). Sarcophilus harrisii in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Canberra.

Tasmania DPIWE (2005) Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) Disease Management Strategy.  Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment.

Tasmanian Devil

Brute Force for the Extinction Fighters

Found: deep in a burrow in Tasmania

Despite his ferocious teeth and gruff bark, he is actually a big softie deep-down. His screech can be heard for kilometres.

Meet all priority native threatened species

Zoos Victoria plans to save this endangered animal.

See all of our 21 priority threatened native species.


Devil of a toothache

It’s a brave dentist that puts their hand up for the job of dental care on a Tasmanian Devil toddler! But for one dentist it is just another day at the office.

1 March 2017
Southern Corroboree Frog

Threatened Species Day 2016

Some of Australia's most endangered species have had a big boost thanks to results announced to commemorate National Threatened Species Day at Zoos Victoria.

6 September 2016
  • Tasmanian Devils are the largest living carnivorous marsupials in the world.