Winter babies have started to arrive at Devil Ark in the Barrington Tops.
The Tasmanian devil breeding program for 2018 is forecast to be the most successful year to date, with initial estimates of 55 joeys.
The not-for-profit organisation is helping to bring the devils back from the brink of extinction, after the Tasmanian population was ravaged by the transmissible devil facial tumour disease.
“We could not be happier with the result of the pouch check,” president of Devil Ark Tim Faulkner said.
“All of the joeys we have checked so far have been healthy and strong in the pouch and all mums are in spectacular condition.
“It’s outstanding to break our record, and we can’t wait to watch the little joeys grow.”
Last year the Ark recorded 51 joeys born into the program and more than 250 joeys during six successful breeding seasons.
This year’s first newborns include two girls and one boy to mother Stella.
The babies are estimated to be between 70 and 80 days old, but will stay in the pouch for a few more months yet.
Each Tasmanian devil gives birth to more than 30 small joeys, but only the first four that attach to their mother’s teat survive.
“We have worked so hard in the last seven years to build the Tasmanian devil population,” Mr Faulkner said.
“To have each breeding season bigger than the last it really goes to show all of our hard work is paying off.”
The joeys are expected to become fully independent around December and are considered adults at two years of age, ready to do their part for the breeding population at Devil Ark.
In the wild, devils typically live for five to six years, while in captivity they can live up to eight years.
Devil Ark opened in 2011 with only 44 founder devils and has since grown to become a large mainland insurance population for the species.
Currently classified as endangered, the facial tumour disease has reduced the wild devil population to less than 90 per cent in some areas.
The Devil Ark reserve at Barrington Tops covers 500 hectares at an altitude of 1350 metres, an ideal location because of its similar climate to Tasmania.
There is still no cure or vaccine in sight for the Tasmanian devil, as population decline continues.
Research and insurance programs like Devil Ark are the species’ best hope of long-term survival.
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