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Help Save the Tasmanian Devil from Extinction

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by Lionel (subscribe)
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Published June 12th 2014

I'm no animal activist or conservationist but I couldn't help learning more about the Tasmanian devil. And I'm not referring to the questionable Syfy Saturday Original Movie of the same name, starring Danica McKellar of "The Wonder Years" and "The West Wing", and Olympic speed skating champion Apolo Ohno. A visit to Zoodoo Wildlife Park outside of Hobart piqued my interest into these marsupial, and their plight. The devil once roamed the wilds of mainland Australia but now can only be found on the island state of Tasmania. Even then their numbers are scarce.

The Tasmanian devil is hardly wimpy in design. Although its only the size of a small dog, nature adorned it with a keen sense of smell, muscular build, a hair-raising screech and a bite that is stronger than any mammal land predator on a per unit body mass. So what happened to the world's largest carnivorous marsupial?

The Story so far...
DTFD on eyes and mouth of tasmanian devil
DTFD tumours on eyes and mouth / Photo courtesy of Save the Tassie Devil Program

The devil is plagued by a disease epidemic caused by a unique contagious cancer termed the Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD). It produces small lumps in and around the mouth and large tumours on the face and neck, which affect the ability to eat.

It is transmitted between devils through biting and the infected animals are dead within months due to starvation. Unfortunately, biting among devils is second-nature, resulting in the high death toll and wiping out nearly 80% of the population. In some areas, the numbers have crossed over 95%.

What's being done?

The Tasmanian devil is now wholly protected and listed as Endangered by the Australian and Tasmanian governments, and the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). The Tasmanian Government and University of Tasmania started the 'Save the Tasmanian Devil Program' in 2005 to establish an Insurance Population (IP) of over 600 disease free devils to guard against the species' extinction in zoos and captive breeding facilities.

The first devil is released onto Maria islandThe first devil is released onto Maria island
The first devil is released onto Maria island / Photo courtesy of Save the Tassie Devil Program

There is also protection of healthy devils in the wild by relocating them to an offshore island called Maria Island and disease free zones on Freycinet and Tasman peninsulas.

How can I help to save them from extinction?

The Program has established a population of around 300 healthy breeding devils but need 500 to keep the species from possible extinction. Like all worthy causes, it takes time, effort and money. Approximately $3.5 million annually. The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program's Appeal invites you to support their efforts through fundraising appeal which is administered by the University of Tasmania Foundation.

Save the Tasmanian Devil Appeal exhibition stand
Photo courtesy of Save the Tassie Devil Program

Here are some easy ways to help:

1. Make a donation

You can make one online, by mail, in person or at a collection point to the Appeal. All donations over $2 are tax deductible in Australia.

team bike ride tasmania
Team Bike Ride Tasmania ccollected donations at the Stan Siejka Launceston Cycling Classic / Photo courtesy of Save the Tassie Devil Program

2. Sponsor an existing event

You can run through the Appeal's calender of events to find something that interest you. Your sponsorship can be financial or in-kind in terms of time and attracting other people to participate. You can also work with existing Appeal supporters on a joint event or project.

Swansea Primary School students' Black & White Day 2014
Swansea Primary School students' Black & White Day 2014 - helping to raise funds and awareness for the Tasmanian devil / Photo courtesy of Save the Tassie Devil Program

3. Organise your own fundraiser

You can raise funds with your family, friends, fellow students, colleagues or club members. Fundraising guidelines are available to help you run your fundraiser and event and to ensure it meets legislative requirements. Simply fill in the Fundraising Registration form and send it to the Appeal for approval. The Appeal has develop a whole set of print and online collateral which you can request and use in your fundraiser.

Pure Foods Eggs support the Save the Tasmanian Devil Appeal
Pure Foods Eggs support the Save the Tasmanian Devil Appeal / Photo courtesy of Save the Tassie Devil Program

4. Become a corporate partner

You can involve your company as a corporate partner based on certain levels of committed support in exchange for benefits from the Appeal as a corporate partner.

5. Support the devils at zoos and wildlife parks
First born devil joeys at Taronga Zoo
First born devil joeys at Taronga Zoo / Photo courtesy of Taronga Zoo

Many devils are housed in over 35 zoos and wildlife parks all over Australia and some are overseas.

You can see the endangered marsupials in Halls Gap Zoo, Monarto Zoo, Australian Reptile Park, Taronga Zoo, Cleland Wildlife Park, Dreamworld, Lone Pine Koala Park, Ballarat Wildlife Park, Perth Zoo, Healesville Sanctuary, Devil Ark, Trowunna Wildlife Park, Melbourne Zoo and many others. Zoodoo Wildlife Park near Richmond conducts presentations about the devil and their behaviours especially around feeding.

auckland zoo
Photo courtesy of Auckland Zoo

The Zoo and Aquarium Association is working with the Program to conserve devils by placing small numbers in overseas zoo under the 'Ambassador devil' initiative. You will be able to see them in New Zealand's Wellington Zoo, Orana Wildlife Park and Auckland Zoo. The devils are also in San Diego Zoo Global and Albuquerque Bio Park in North America.

6. The easiest of them all

Simply forward the Save The Tasmanian Devil Program web address to your contacts or share this article around.

Support the Save the Tasmanian Devil Appeal
Photo courtesy of Save the Tassie Devil Program

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Why? Without our help, it maybe goodbye Tasmanian devils forever
Phone: Program: 61 3 6165 4300 / Appeal: 61 3 6324 3314
Where: Tasmania, Australia
Cost: AUD3.5 million annually
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