Dec. 3 - A rare, genetically diverse, Tasmanian Devil has been captured in the wild and sent to join a colony of disease-free devils in NSW on Australia's mainland. Scientists hope the devil's genes will offer a new life line to the colony's breeding programme and halt the species' slide towards extinction. Ben Gruber reports.
According to conservationists Tasmanian devils are on the brink of extinction. Over the past 15 years their population in the wild has plummeted 75 percent... due to a deadly facial cancer that scientists have yet to find a way to treat. Research is ongoing but in the meantime some hope has arrived in the form of Princess Mary, a devil found in a region of Tasmania where the population was thought to be wiped out. Mary is now part of the Devil Ark breeding programme - a small colony of healthy devils on the Australian mainland, a thousand kilometres from Tasmania..and the disease.. Devil Keeper Adrian Good says its Princess Mary's genes that make her so valuable. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ADRIAN GOOD, DEVIL KEEPER, DEVIL ARK CONSERVATORY, SAYING: "Princess Mary is genetic royalty. She's not related to any other Tasmanian devils in the programme, and she's from an area where we've seen the population crash to as low as one to three percent. If you loose devils like this in the programme, the genes are gone, lost forever. They're irreplaceable." The breeding programme at Devil Ark has been successful. This year 32 baby devils were born in addition to 26 last year. These babies, known as joeys, may be the future of their species. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ADRIAN GOOD, DEVIL KEEPER, DEVIL ARK CONSERVATORY, SAYING: "Devil Ark's the biggest Tasmanian devil breeding facility. We genetically manage our population here, so that when we eventually release them back into the wild of Tasmania, it's going to give them the best chance of long term survival." Princess Mary will now take her place among more than 100 other devils at Devil Ark. It is hoped she will have at least two or three breeding years, and that her genetic diversity will give her species a fighting chance at survival.