Jan 7, 2009

World - Australia;Fence hope for Tasmanian Devils

Australian scientists say they want to build a fence on Tasmania to prevent the spread of a cancer that threatens the Tasmanian Devil with extinction.

The scientists say there is no cure for the contagious disease which has already infected two-thirds of Tasmania's devil population.

They warn that unless action is taken the world's largest marsupial carnivore could be extinct within 20 years.

They hope a fence will separate the healthy and infected animals.

Until now the strategy has been to remove healthy animals and to place them in quarantine.

Earlier this year the Tasmanian Devil - unique to the island - was declared an endangered species because of the disease - which results in facial tumours.

Recent research which found that the devils cannot pass on the disease to their offspring had offered scientists some hope .

But they also received a setback when it emerged that a Tasmanian devil named Cedric, who was thought to be immune to the cancer, had contracted the disease.

Two coin-sized tumours were cut out of his face and, although it is hoped he will make a full recovery, it casts doubt on much of the research work conducted over the past two years, the BBC's Nick Bryant reports from Sydney.

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