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Tasmania builds sanctuary for the Devil

posted 6 May 2011, 10:28 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 6 May 2011, 10:30 ]
Conservationists hope a new sanctuary will save Australia's declining Tasmanian Devils. Gemma Haines has more.

INTRO: Conservationists hope a new sanctuary will save Australia's declining Tasmanian Devils. Gemma Haines has more.

ABC AUSTRALIA / REUTERS - Australia's Tasmanian Devil is facing extinction.

A mysterious cancer has wiped out seventy percent of the population in the last fifteen years. It's believed the

cancer is spread via saliva when the animals bite one another during the mating season. Tumours form, preventing the animals from feeding and they die.

Conservationists have been trying to preserve healthy devils by isolating them in zoos, but in Coles Bay on Tasmania's east coast, they're exploring a new approach.

From a parcel of donated land, a sanctuary for healthy animals dubbed 'Devil Island" has been created, which CEO Bruce Englefield says gives them a fighting chance.

Bruce Englefield, Devil Island CEO, saying

"Devils can be disease-free and safe but keep all their wild behaviours or learn them as much as possible."

While scientists continue the search for a vaccine or cure for the disease, conservationists stress the importance of building a healthy population of devils in a quarantined environment..

The Environment Department's Mark Holdsworth.

Mark Holdsworth, Tasmanian Environment Development, saying

"What we are trying to do here is to maintain wild behaviour in captive devils as part of the insurance population and this is the first time we have actually tried this."

Tasmanian businesswoman Jan Cameron donated the land for the sanctuary, now home to 18 healthy devils.

Jan Cameron, Conservationist, saying

"Well I hope they breed like crazy and we can take them off here and put them on other sites."

Hopes remain high that a cure for the disease will eventually be developed, so the animals can be released back into the wild.

Bruce Englefield, Devil Island CEO, saying

"Eventually, it may not be them, it may be their children, their grand-children, 50 years down the track."

Gemma Haines, Reuters.

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