Wildcare and Saffire are supporting Tassie devil research through the Wildcare Tasmanian Devils Cause in the Wildcare Gift Fund which provides funding to the Tasmanian devil immunology research group at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research in Hobart. The group, led by Associate Professor Bruce Lyons and Dr Andy Flies, studies the devastating transmissible cancer Devil Facial Tumour Disease which has decimated the Tassie devil population. The group aims to develop a protective vaccine against Facial Tumour Disease. This requires on-going research into how the devil’s immune system, interacts with the disease.

The devil immunology group is extremely grateful to the donors who support the Wildcare/ Saffire Gift Fund Cause for providing funding for the part time salary of their research vet, Dr Ruth Pye. In 2016, Ruth finished her PhD on the immune recognition of Facial Tumour Disease by the devil, and has since continued to work with the group to provide veterinary support.

   Photos supplied by Dr Ruth Pye

Over the past year, Ruth has been primarily involved with the Facial Tumour Disease immunisation trials on devils released into the wild as part of the ‘Wild Devil Recovery Project’, an initiative of the Tasmanian Government’s ‘Save the Tasmanian Devil Program’. The devil immunology group also maintains a facility near Hobart for a small number of captive devils. These devils are used by the group for blood samples and preliminary immunisation studies, and fall under the direct care of Ruth and their dedicated devil keeper.

The Tassie devil is an iconic species that occupies a unique and critical place in the Tasmanian environment. It is threatened by Facial Tumour Disease, an immunological phenomenon that has captured international attention. Research into the Facial Tumour Disease therefore encompasses Tasmanian conservation issues alongside broader fields like cancer immunology. Funding for the Menzies’ devil immunology group by initiatives such as the Wildcare Gift Fund ensures continuation of this research.