The red carpet was rolled out at Tasmania Zoo on Wednesday as the Governor-General of Australia Sir Peter Cosgrove and his wife Lady Lynne Cosgrove stopped by for an educational tour.
The retired senior Australian army officer was greeted by the zoo’s baby Tasmanian Devils, which have been bred through its specialised breeding program.
Tasmania Zoo head keeper Emma Morgan said the Governor-General’s visit was a positive step towards increasing awareness about the threat to the endangered species.
“He’s a very important person and having him here will make other people aware and hopefully lead to more people helping with our conservation efforts,” she said.
“The Devil Facial Tumour isn’t our fault, but we are responsible for trying to find a cure. It’s not just that either it’s other threats like the devils being hit by cars, so awareness is critical.”
The breeding program began in 2005 when Tasmania Zoo accepted an offer from the Department of Primary Industries, Water and the Environment to house a large group of orphaned devils, whose mothers died of Devil Facial Tumour Disease.
In 2007, there were no signs of the disease in the young devils and successful breeding saw the first of the zoo’s second generation devils born in April that year.
Almost a decade later and Tasmania Zoo has just completed breeding its 7th generation of healthy devils with three females now carrying young.
The keepers have counted eight imps and are expecting to have up to 12 after checking the last pouch.
During his trip to Launceston, Sir Cosgrove also visited Scotch Oakburn Junior School where he presented a few lucky students with official Governor-General medallions.
The Royal Flying Doctors Service at Launceston Airport, the New Horizons Club and the Australian Maritime College were also on his itinerary.
Sir Cosgrove said he had looked forward to being “a bit of a local” during his trip to Tasmania.
“What we try to do when we are visiting these wonderful parts of our nation is to particularly do those community service activities and enterprises,” he said.
“Because there you see volunteers….volunteers make the world go around...they’re all wonderful people...fantastic Australians.”