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Help Us Save the Devil

Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) is a fatal and infectious form of cancer affecting the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii)—the world’s largest marsupial carnivore.
This extremely rare form of cancer—one of only three cancers known to spread like a contagious disease—is characterised by obvious facial tumours in affected devils. DFTD, which is thought to be transmitted by infected devils biting other devils, primarily affects adult animals and, once contracted, can spread quickly with devastating results. As the cancers develop and spread in infected animals, feeding and competing for food becomes progressively more difficult. Affected animals often die from starvation and the breakdown of their bodily functions within three to five months of infection.

DFTD was first detected in north-east Tasmania in the mid 1990s, and since that time, sightings of the Tasmanian devil in the wild have declined by more than 80 percent. Tragically, the north-east region has experienced a drop in sightings of around 95 percent. Due to this alarming rate of decline, the Tasmanian devil is now listed as an endangered species.

The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program is the Tasmanian government’s response to this significant threat to the devil’s survival. The program has a focus on breeding genetically viable animals, which are safely accommodated in a range of locations in order to establish an insurance population for the species. This breeding population of wild and captive-bread devils are carefully managed to ensure genetic diversity of the species, with the hope of one day safely releasing healthy devils back into the wild.

The Menzies Institute for Medical Research is conducting vital research into the immune system of the Tasmanian devil and the way in which it responds to the cancer. Led by Professor Greg Woods, this research is also focused on the potential for developing a vaccine against DFTD.

Through the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, Saffire has partnered with Professor Woods in this critical effort to save the Tasmanian devil from extinction. As a key sponsor, Saffire is contributing significantly to the Menzies Research Institute’s quest to develop a vaccine for DFTD and secure the survival of this extraordinary marsupial.

We have created a one-hectare, free-range devil enclosure at Saffire to accommodate mature devils that have been part of the devil breeding program and whose genes are now well represented within the insurance population. This enclosure provides the devils with a safe, secure environment and high quality of life, while also freeing up space for more breeding devils within government facilities. In effect, the devil enclosure at Saffire is a luxury retirement home for devils who have played their part in helping to ensure the survival of their species.

The Saffire devil enclosure also has the added benefit of allowing Saffire guests the incredible opportunity to see Tasmanian devils in a natural setting and to contribute to the continuing effort to save this iconic species.

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