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Disease-free "devils" head back to Tasmania

Thursday, November 19, 2015 - 01:44

After treatment for deadly cancer, Tasmanian Devils are transported back to their island home. Rough Cut (No reporter narration).

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ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION STORY: The largest group of Tasmanian Devils to be reintroduced to their natural habitat arrived on the Australian island state on Wednesday (November 18), part of a plan designed to save the carnivorous marsupials from a cancer threatening them with extinction. A group of 22 of the fierce creatures were flown from Devil Ark, a disease-free captive breeding facility at Barrington Tops, about 250 kilometers from Sydney, to Tasmania. Devil Facial Tumour Disease has caused the population to plummet to around 10,000 now from an estimated 250,000 before 1996, when the disease was discovered. The disease causes large lumps to form around the animal's mouth and head, making it hard for animal to eat. "It's a contagious cancer, one of only a very few small handful known in the world. So, what happens is, it's transferred, simply by touch. Devils natural feeding behavior and mating behavior, wherever they come into contact with one another this disease can be transmitted and thus the rapid decline, It's a very, very nasty disease. After three months we see symptoms, after six months those devils are gone," Mike Drinkwater, operations manager at the Devil Ark recovery program told Reuters. Devil Ark currently has 180 devils in the program, making it the largest captive insurance population in Australia. The project has taken four years to reach a point of reintroduction into the wild. Prior to transporting and releasing the animal, they are sprayed and checked for lice and any insects. "With the work Devil Ark is carrying out in combination with other organizations we can mitigate against what unfortunately could be another Australian mammal extinction and that's what we don't want to see, especially for such a unique iconic animal like the Tasmanian Devil," Drinkwater said. They have been released into native bushland at Dunally on the Forestier Peninsula, near the southern state capital of Hobart, protected by "devil-proof" fencing and other deterrents to prevent diseased devils from contaminating the healthy specimens. European settlers named the "Sarcophilus Harrisii" Tasmanian Devils after witnessing their ferocious teeth bearing display and spine-chilling guttural growls when attacking food. The Tasmanian Devil is the world's largest carnivorous marsupial, reaching 30 inches (76 centimeters) in length and weighting up to 26 pounds (12 kilograms).

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Disease-free "devils" head back to Tasmania

Thursday, November 19, 2015 - 01:44