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Acting Premier and Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, Carmel Tebbutt, today officially opened Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s new Tasmanian Devil breeding unit – a key part of the national effort to save the endangered marsupial.

Ms Tebbutt said the $700,000 breeding unit, jointly funded by the NSW Government and the Taronga Conservation Society Australia, would provide additional capacity to the breeding program.

Ms Tebbutt also announced the birth of four Tasmanian Devil joeys at the zoo this year, in addition to the nine joeys born in 2008.

“The zoo is part of a national program designed to help prevent the Tasmanian Devil becoming extinct as a result of the transmissible cancer, Devil Facial Tumour Disease,” Ms Tebbutt said.

“The disease now affects wild Tasmanian Devils across more than half of Tasmania and has caused a 64 per cent decline in the population since it was discovered in 1996. Devils generally live for less than six months after contracting the disease.

“The special breeding facilities are part of efforts by mainland zoos and wildlife parks to establish a disease-free population of 500 Tasmanian Devils to safeguard against the risk of extinction in the wild, which is, sadly, a very real possibility.”

The Tasmanian Devil insurance population program aims to maintain maximum genetic diversity so that if Tasmanian Devils become extinct in the wild, the insurance population can repopulate the wild habitat with disease-free animals.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo is one of 17 mainland zoos and wildlife parks involved in the national effort to establish an insurance population on the mainland free from DFTD.

“The consistent breeding results and the successful management of the zoo’s Tasmanian Devil population, along with the expansion of the breeding facility has made Taronga Western Plains one of the key institutions involved in the program,” Ms Tebbutt said.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s additional Tasmanian Devil breeding facility will play a vital role in next year’s breeding season, which runs from February to June.

There are sixteen individual yards in the new facility, which have recently been filled with joeys from the 2008 breeding season.

The breeding facility has insulated night dens, yards landscaped with plants and leaf mulch, a misting irrigation system to keep the animals cool in the summer and a sustainable water system with collected rainwater used to fill ponds in each individual yard.

For more information about the Tasmanian Devil insurance population visit www.taronga.org.au.

Media contact: Alex Walker for Minister Tebbutt – 0401 088 155 / Mandy Quayle for Taronga Western Plains Zoo – 0420 962 376

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