Tasmania sends Devils to mark birth in Denmark of future king

SYDNEY, (AFP) - Australian authorities are sending a pair of threatened Tasmanian devils to the Copenhagen Zoo to mark the birth of the future king of Denmark to Australian-born Crown Princess Mary.

The pair of feisty marsupials is part of a series of gifts for the baby prince from the island state of Tasmania, Mary's original home, state officials said Monday.

"We wanted to present the people of Denmark with something uniquely Tasmanian to celebrate the royal birth," said Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon.

"People around the world instantly associate the devils with Tasmania and I'm sure the Danes will be thrilled to have two living, breathing examples of the state's unofficial emblem living in their capital city," he said.

The devils, dog-size marsupial carnivores that live wild only in Tasmania, are under threat from a mystery cancer-like disease that has slashed their population by up to 70 percent in some areas.

The state government is pressing to have the devil designated a threatened species as scientists seek to find the cause of the disfiguring facial cancer that has decimated the animals, estimated to number about 130,000 in the wild.

Mary gave birth to her first child at the Copenhagen University Hospital on Saturday, with Crown Prince Frederik at her side.

The newborn prince is second in line to the throne in Europe's oldest reigning monarchy, after Frederik, 37, the older son of Queen Margrethe.

Also to mark the prince's birth, Lennon said every child born in Tasmania on Saturday would receive a pair of suede booties, similar to those Mary was spotted buying during a royal tour to her home country in March.

The Australian federal government, for its part, said it was sending a first edition of a classic Australian children's story, "Snugglepot and Cuddlepie" as the nation's gift to the little prince.

First published in 1918, May Gibbs' story about the adventures of two half-brother babies is one of Australia's best-loved children's books, often credited with inspiring a love for the Australian "bush".

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