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Accelerated research to save Tassie Devils

$750,000 for accelerated research to save threatened Tassie Devils

The Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, has boosted efforts to save the iconic Tasmanian devil with funding to accelerate research into the deadly facial tumour disease afflicting the animals.

The $750,000 is the first installment of a $2 million Australian Government rescue package to counteract the effects of the contagious cancer. It tops up $46,200 that the Government has already provided for disease monitoring.

“Our knowledge of the disease is improving as a result of monitoring of the wild population and diagnostic research – both are vital if we are to find a cure to save the devil,” Senator Campbell said.

“While a recent breakthrough has discovered that the cancer is spread by devils biting each other, we still don’t know its cause.”

Research priorities include:

• further mapping of the devil genome;

• investigation to determine possible causes;

• field research to determine the impact on wild populations; and

• field research to determine the effectiveness of field management techniques in suppressing and eradicating the disease in the wild population.

“As well as looking for a cause and ultimately a cure, it is important we establish quarantined populations of healthy animals that can be held as ‘insurance’, with some animals kept for captive breeding and others returned to the wild when disease risk is minimal,” Senator Campbell said.

The research programme is a joint effort between the Australian and Tasmanian governments and CSIRO.

Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease was first detected in the mid 1990s. It has since spread throughout the State, though there is no evidence of it in the far north-west and west coast populations.

To date the cancer is estimated to have resulted in the loss of between 30 and 50 per cent of the wild population. The devil is unique to Tasmania and is the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial.

“The work being done is vital in the fight to protect this little Australian icon from the very serious threat this cancer poses,” Senator Campbell said.

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