<figcaption> Credit: Stephen Pincock</figcaption>
Credit: Stephen Pincock

The oversized, fluffy "Taz" looks decidedly out of place in the gift shop at Narawntapu national park, a wildlife-rich reserve on the north coast of Tasmania. Nearly two feet high, it looms over a small selection of other, more refined, souvenirs.

But the plush toy, modeled on Warner Brothers' whirlwind Looney Tunes cartoon character, is on sale for a good cause. Each one raises money for research into Devil Facial Tumor Disease, the poorly understood and disfiguring affliction that threatens the entire Tasmanian Devil population. In fact, it is one of 5,000 fluffy Taz dolls the Tasmanian government is allowed to manufacture as part of a deal it struck in June last year with Warner Bros. Retailing at AU$50 each, they're expected to bring in up to $200,000 for devil research.

The money is certainly needed. A decade after it first appeared, the disease now affects most...

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