Imagine if everyone could contribute a little to help Save the Tasmanian Devil… that’s the focus of Think Tasmania’s “We Support” section this month.

Save the Tasmanian Devil - Appeal
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Supporting: Save Tasmanian Devil Appeal (photo Iain D. Williams, Anaspides Photography)

An Appeal to Save the Tasmanian Devil

Besides countless visits to wildlife parks around Tasmania, we’ve also been inspired by the good work of many of our colleagues, who have thrown their effort behind the cause already. Here’s just a few examples…

Clearly, our readers are also concerned about the plight of the endangered species. An article by Carol Haberle detailing Ten Tasmanian Devil Facts You May Not Know has been shared over 165+ so far. That’s great work (well done everyone!) and we’d ask you to continue sharing, and spread the word even further.

Devil’s Day at Mole Creek

Jon English and Dewayne Everettsmith will be performing at “A Devil’s Day at the Creek” at the Mole Creek Hotel and Tassie Tiger Bar on Monday 4 November, which is a public holiday in the north of Tassie. The show will run from 1:00 to 7:00 pm and proceeds from the day will go to the Save the Tasmanian Devil Appeal.


 

The Tassie Devils are lucky to have these fantastic musicians as their official ambassadors! Peter Cupples and others will also be performing. Tickets are available in advance from the Mole Creek Hotel website or by phoning (03) 6363 1102. Tickets can also be purchased at the gate on the day.

Save the Tasmanian Devil - Devil's Day at the Creek
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Devil’s Day at the Creek

We have been liaising with Nicole Willcox, fundraising manager for the Save the Tasmanian Devil Appeal. Nicole gave us some additional information and photos to share…

The Save the Tasmanian Devil Appeal is an initiative of the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program and is the official fundraising entity that direct funds in full to Australia’s national response to Devil Facial Tumour Disease, through the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program.  100% of the funds raised by the Appeal go to the research and management activities that have been prioritised as important to the long-term solution to Devil Facial Tumour Disease and the aim to keep Tasmanian Devils sustainable in the wild as well as to facilitate the educational and publicity activities of the Appeal. The Appeal is coordinated by the University of Tasmania Foundation.

Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD)

Tragically the Devil is fighting a battle unforseen only a few short years ago, struck down by Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), an extremely rare and aggressive cancer. Since the discover of the disease in 1996 it is estimated, via sightings, there has been a population decline of more than 80% of wild Tasmanian Devils, driving them to the point of extinction.


 

DFTD attacks the mouth and the head of the devil and is fatal. The cancer cells are spread through biting; an infected devil bites another, common during mating, and the cells are then transferred from one devil to another.

Research

Earlier this year there were encouraging steps towards finding a vaccine. When tumour cells are transplanted from one devil to another the devil does not recognise the cell as deadly as the DFTD lacks a molecule that triggers the devils defence mechanism. However, an international collaboration between the University of Tasmania’s Menzies Research Institute Tasmania and the School of Zoology, the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, the University of Cambridge, the University of Sydney and the University of South Denmark have made an interesting discovery: it is possible to “turn” the molecule on, thereby triggering a response.

Save the Tasmanian Devil - Appeal
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Devil Facial Tumour Disease: new hope for a vaccine (photo Kim Nolan, DPIPWE)

Menzies’ Professor Greg Woods says “by introducing signalling molecules such as interferongamma, a protein which triggers the immune response, the DFTD cells can be forced to express MHC molecules. This work highlights the potential for the development of a vaccine”. The Save the Tasmanian Devil Appeal is a proud supporter of this research. All the international researchers have been recipients of Appeal grants over the past 12 months.

Management Strategies

“While these results are important for understanding how to combat the disease at a biological level, the challenge is to ensure the survival of the species in the wild” said Dr Howel Williams, the Director of the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program. “We’re now working on protecting populations of healthy devils in the wild in large areas of natural habitat in Tasmania, on islands and peninsulas, physically isolated from diseased devils.”

In November 2012 devils were introduced to Maria Island, a small island located off the east coast of Tasmania, there are now signs these devils are breeding.

Save the Tasmanian Devil - Appeal
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Tasmanian Devils breeding program on Maria Island (photo Tony Britt Lewis, Taronga Zoo)

When Brian Wightman (Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage) joined staff of the Devil Program and the Parks and Wildlife Service on Maria Island in April, he said “we know that at least six of the eight female devils on the island are carrying pouch young, and the remaining two females which haven’t been trapped yet may also have mated successfully and be carrying young by now. Although it’s still early days and the pouch young are tiny, the fact that the devils are mating successfully bodes very well for the management of the introduced population.”


 

The translocation of devils to Maria Island is a project of national conservation significance and the first of its kind for the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program. Over 500 healthy devils are being held as an insurance against extinction in more than 20 private zoos and wildlife parks throughout Australia along with the Program’s captive breeding facilities and free range enclosures in Tasmania. A second release of devils on Maria Island is being planned for later this year.

Importance of Public Donations

Crucial funds are channelled directly by the Save the Tasmanian Devil Appeal to key research and management activities that aim to keep the devils sustainable in the wild. Save the Tasmanian Devil Appeal Manager, Rebecca Cuthill is encouraged by the support shown by public donations. “The money raised is significant. With real inroads being made in the development of a vaccine and exciting conservation strategies being employed the time really is now to save this iconic animal. It’s not often you can say that you personally helped save a species, by donating to the Appeal you be assured your money goes to the areas of most need”, she added.

Fundraising Opportunities

There are many other ways to get involved. You could volunteer your time; tells your friends about the Save the Tasmanian Devil Appeal and spread the word via social media; run a fundraiser, and talk about the plight of the Tasmanian Devil at your workplace or school. Even just sign up to receive the regulars newsletters.

To make a donation, support or just find out more about the Save the Tasmanian Devil Appeal, connect with the official Facebook page. You’ll also find more details online at the Save the Tasmanian Devil Appeal website, or you can phone (03) 6324 3527.

There’s another Facebook page readers can follow, called Save the Tasmanian Devil Program. Details about the scientific research being undertaken are updated on this page.

Save the Tasmanian Devil - Young Tassie Devil
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A young Tasmanian Devil at Trowunna Wildlife Park (photo by Dan Fellow)

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