As part of our contribution to the environment, 25 cents from each bottle of Brady's Lookout Cider that you purchase is donated to The Save the Tasmanian Devil Appeal. In 2017, we donated $1,000 towards the Appeal.
Background The Save the Tasmanian devil Appeal is the central fundraiser for the Tasmanian devil. Administered by the University of Tasmania Foundation and working in partnership with the Tasmanian and Australian governments, the Appeal is the philanthropic arm of the Save the Tasmanian devil Program. Established in 2003, The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program is the national response to the threat posed by Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) to the Tasmanian devil.
The Story So Far The Tasmanian devil is endangered due to a disease epidemic caused by a unique contagious cancer. Called Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), it is transmitted between devils through biting and kills all infected devils within months.
Since the disease was first seen in 1996, DFTD has spread across most of the Australian state of Tasmania and devil numbers are estimated to have declined by over 80% (according to annual spotlight surveys). Some populations where the disease first emerged have declined by over 95%.
DFTD produces small lumps in and around the mouth which develop into large tumours on the face and neck. Death follows as a result of starvation and the breakdown of bodily functions. The devil’s immune system doesn’t react to the tumour cells because they are in disguise and don’t appear foreign.
An array of research areas have been explored in collaboration with Universities and researchers world-wide with potential vaccine and treatments currently being trialled. A breakthrough moment occurred for researchers at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research in Tasmania when they realised that tumour cells evade detection. Work is now focussing on “turning on” the specific genes to generate an immune response in the Tasmanian devil and protect it from the disease. These recent breakthroughs have led researcher Professor Greg Woods to say that, “hopes to save the species have been rekindled.”
In late September 2015, 18 devils who have received a series of immunisations were released back into the wild where they will continue to be monitored. This project is significant and could change the future for the Tasmanian devil.
In addition, an innovative, and extremely successful, insurance population of over 600 disease free devils has been established to guard against the species’ extinction. The devils are being housed in over 35 zoos and wildlife parks throughout Australia. The Program also contributes directly to the insurance population with devils held in its two captive breeding facilities and three ‘Devil Islands’ in Tasmania.
Strategies are now being implemented to ensure the survival of the species in the wild in Tasmania. These include the protection of natural populations of healthy devils in isolated landscapes on islands and peninsulas. A small population of devils has been translocated to a small island offshore Tasmania and similar disease free zones are being planned.
The Future With a large portion of their wild population already wiped out the future for the Tasmanian devil is bleak. There are no easy solutions but an array of innovative options are being explored. Tasmanian devils are a top order predator and are thus a vital part of the ecosystem of this island State. If they were to become extinct in the wild, many other native animals would be put at risk.
However, with the broad range of research and on the ground activities continuing to be supported there is much to be praised. The challenge is to continue this momentum, to fulfil the vision of securing a future for our iconic Tasmanian devil.