First the Tiger, Now the Devil

Are we in danger of losing Tassie’s most famous animal?

The Tassie devil, one of Tasmania’s most well-loved and renowned native species is fighting back against a brutal disease.

Researchers initially celebrated after birthing 44 healthy joeys in one of their relocation facilities in the state’s north-east. However, due to complications in vaccination trials, three Tassie Devils have been discovered with the disease, cutting celebrations short.

The disease, which incites deadly facial tumours is one of the leading causes of death with more than 80 percent of the species wiped out across Tasmania in the past 20 years.

Image: Shutterstock

The team relocated some 130 devils in four different sites across Tasmania. The animals have adjusted to their new habitat and are now putting on more weight and breeding successfully. David Pemberton from the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program explains the purpose for relocating was to ensure the species chance of survival.

The results from both Stony Head and Forestier Peninsula — and of course Maria Island — all these sites have bred, and there are second and third generations are breeding.

As previously mentioned the 44 new joeys will impact the Tasmanian Devil population greatly.

With 44 babies in the pouch, if they can wean them, that's basically going to double the population the more animal in the population then the less ... impact from the loss of the devils.

Unfortunately, despite efforts to vaccinate against the deadly disease, three joeys were found with facial tumours. Professor Greg Woods from the Menzies Institute explains that 33 Devils released in the Stony head area, all showed good resilience to the disease.

Clearly the vaccination isn't 100 per cent effective, but we'll do more research to analyse these tumour samples to find out why…We knew that all these cells produced an immune response.  We'd be more confident if it produced a stronger response, so we're working on that at the moment.

Unfortunately, the disease is proving hard to abolish.

I'm confident it'll work in future. We know that the devils can produce an immune response to the tumour cells we inject we also know with immunotherapy they can recover, but whether it's for all devils, we don't know.

Header: Shutterstock

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