Tasmanian Times

Environment

Caution still needed despite findings from new devil research

News today of researchers confirming a genetically diverse Tasmanian devil population in the state’s North West has been welcomed by Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne.

Researchers from the universities of Sydney and Tasmania are hopeful of a natural immunity to devil facial tumour disease being present in the genetic make-up of the North West devils, but Senator Milne has warned there is still a long way to go if we are to save them from extinction.

“It is very encouraging to learn of a possible immune population in Tasmania’s North West. But we must still do all we can to keep devil facial tumour disease out of the devil’s final stronghold because there are too many uncertainties surrounding the new research.”

“The discovery of a genetically different population certainly gives us hope, but there is a long way to go before it can be proven that these devil’s will not succumb to the disease. After all, we all thought Cedric was immune.”

“Today’s findings should not be taken as a declaration of open season on the devil’s valuable habitat. Opening the Tarkine region to development, be it tourist roads, mines or forestry will still place the devil under extreme pressure”

“If anything, it is more important than ever to protect our disease free devils, as now they may have a fighting chance of survival if, and only if, their habitat is left in its natural state and the risk of facial tumour disease being introduced is permanently minimised.”

“It is also imperative that we do not abandon hope of protecting the 80 percent of devils susceptible to this terrible contagious cancer, and it is concerning to note the researcher’s suggestion that we put all our efforts into protecting just the 20 percent of devils found to have possible immunity.”

“This places all our eggs in the one basket and narrows the devil’s already limited genetic diversity, leaving it vulnerable to other diseases.”

“Today’s announcement represents a hopeful glimmer on the horizon for our iconic devil, but, as the Federal Minister for the Environment is currently accepting submissions to uplist the Tasmanian devil to critically endangered, we must remember there is a long way to go and we are running out of time.”

“It wasn’t so long ago that Cedric was hailed as the key to the devil’s survival. Some scientists speculate that his immunity was due to his mother being a wild caught devil from the west of Tasmania. But disease took hold in the end. Scientists are saying this could happen in the North West as new strains emerge and adapt to their seemingly immune hosts.”

“We must, therefore, still do all we can to keep the devil away from the disease.”
Senator Christine Milne

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