Monitoring for diseased devils

Devil facial tumor disease threatens the survival of wild populations of the Tasmanian devil. The disease is believed to be transmitted through biting and causes tumors on the face or inside the mouth. Once tumors develop, death typically occurs within months. The disease was first detected in NE Tasmania in 1996 and has since spread across most of the devil’s habitat, resulting in an 80% decline in wild populations.

Devil facial tumor disease threatens the survival of wild populations of the Tasmanian devil. The disease is believed to be transmitted through biting and causes tumors on the face or inside the mouth. Once tumors develop, death typically occurs within months. The disease was first detected in NE Tasmania in 1996 and has since spread across most of the devil’s habitat, resulting in an 80% decline in wild populations.

CEED researchers from the Universities of Melbourne and Queensland working with the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program have developed a user-friendly model to help managers decide whether an area is free from devil facial tumor disease.

Led by Tracy Rout, the researchers modelled the removal of a diseased Tasmanian devil population from Forestier Peninsula (Tasmania), and analysed the costs and benefits of declaring the area diseasefree prior to the reintroduction and establishment of a healthy insurance population (Rout et al, 2017).

“I think it’s a great example of scientists and practitioners working together to ensure on-ground decisions are informed by up-to-date modelling and decision analyses,” says Tracy Rout. “We developed a model that can be run from an Excel spreadsheet, so the management team could use it to plan monitoring intensity while in the field.”

Reference

Rout TM, CM Baker, S Huxtable & BA Wintle BA (2017). Monitoring, imperfect detection, and risk optimization of a Tasmanian devil insurance population. Conservation Biology.  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12975/full

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