MELBOURNE, July 19 (Xinhua) -- Researchers battling to save the iconic Tasmanian devil from extinction have been dealt a major blow on Wednesday.
The Wild Devil Recovery Project (WDRP) found three relocated devils with devil facial tumor disease (DFTD), the cancer that decimated the species' population, despite having been administered a vaccination for the disease.
The discovery of the relocated devils came as the project celebrated the birth of 44 devils in a relocated population in northeast Tasmania.
More than 80 percent of Tasmanian devils have been wiped out by DFTD, prompting the WDRP which is aiming to rebuild the population.
Around 130 devils have been relocated across Tasmania after being vaccinated.
Researchers from around the world will analyze why the three devils in Stony Head developed small tumors despite being vaccinated.
"We released 33 devils (in Stony Point), and all of them produced an immune response, but recently we found three of them had developed the tumours," said Greg Woods, an expert from the Menzies Institute, Melbourne.
"Clearly the vaccination isn't 100 percent effective, but we'll do more research to analyze these tumour samples to find out why."
"The vaccine will need a bit of tinkering, which is what we're doing anyway, trying to modify it."
"I'm confident it'll work in future. We know that the devils can produce an immune response to the tumour cells we inject we also know with immunotherapy they can recover, but whether it's for all devils we don't know."
David Pemberton, head of the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, said devils were being relocated across multiple sites to increase genetic diversity and give the marsupials a better chance of survival.