Research into the endangered Tasmanian Devil, currently afflicted by a mysterious Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), has been given a boost by American based film studio Warner Bros.
Taz is the creation of Warner Bros and is one of its most popular of the Loony Tunes cartoon characters. Although the link has never been documented, it is likely that one of Tasmania's most famous human exports, Errol Flynn, was the inspiration behind Taz. Errol was himself an animal-lover and his father, Professor TT Flynn, was a pioneering Australian mammologist and zoologist, and professor of Biology at the University of Tasmania. Indeed, Prof. Flynn is credited with being one of the first scientists to warn of the Tasmanian Tiger's impending extinction.
Wildlife tourism is proving to be one of the greatest draws for international visitors to the state of Tasmania, over 40% of which is protected by national park or World Heritage status. Currently the UK is Tasmania's biggest source of tourists with over 30,000 visiting the wilderness island every year.
Tourism Tasmania's head of marketing, John Pugsley, welcomes the involvement of Warner Bros: "To see the Tasmanian devil in its natural habitat is a very precious experience. Thanks to people who have dedicated so much research to conserving the devil it is now possible for anyone who makes the journey to the shores of Tasmania to see this iconic creature. We learnt our lesson when we lost the Thylacine [Tasmanian Tiger, believed extinct] and we welcome all efforts to save the Tasmanian devil from a similar fate".
As part of the agreement between Warner Brothers and Tourism Tasmania, special edition soft toy replicas of the Loony Tunes character have been released. Approximately Â£80,000 is expected to be raised from this initiative. All funds will go to the devil appeal which has already raised tens of thousands through donations. A committee of international experts in Tasmania is working round the clock to save the devil from the cancer, the origins of which remain a mystery, and which is highly contagious, killing 80% of devils in some parts of the state.
The Tasmanian devils on the west coast of Tasmania are still believed to be disease-free. It is here, on King's Run, owned by farmer and conservationist Geoff King, that visitors can engage in the spectacle of a 'devil feed' as the small dog-sized creatures with jaws the strength of a crocodile devour virtually every bone and cartilage of strategically placed road-kill. Trowunna Wildlife Park, where Androo Kelly is the world's most prolific breeder of devils, is another superb place to view and learn about the world's largest surviving carnivore, as is Devils@cradle, a new devil conservation centre opened at Cradle Mountain.
For more information on visiting Tasmania visit www.discovertasmania.com
Anyone interested in helping to save the Tasmanian devil can donate online on www.tasmaniandevilappeal.com