Wiggles to lose three of its four founder members

media captionThe Wiggles 'hang up their skivvies'

Three of the four members of Australian children's entertainers The Wiggles are to leave the group, paving the way for the quartet's first female performer.

Jeff Fatt, Murray Cook and Greg Page said they would hand over their purple, red and yellow pullovers to a "new generation" at the end of a 2012 tour.

Remaining member Anthony Field will then continue with a new line-up that will include 22-year-old Emma Watkins.

Founded in 1991, the group have sold more than 30 million albums and DVDs.

They topped BRW's annual list of Australia's 50 richest entertainers for four consecutive years - from 2004-2008 - and last year were ranked at number two.

In a statement, Cook said "entertaining children around the world for 21 years" had required the band to spend "a long time away from our own families and friends".

"It's important that we plan for the future so that The Wiggles can keep wiggling in the years to come," the 51-year-old continued.

Watkins and fellow newcomers Lachlan Gillespie and Simon Pryce will join the original line-up on a 'Celebration Tour' that begins in Singapore at the end of May.

The Wiggles will travel to the UK, the US, Canada and New Zealand before returning to Australia in November, after which the departing members will step into "backstage creative roles".

Apart from singer Kylie Minogue, made an honorary 'Pink Wiggle' in 2009, the children's favourites have never had a woman among their ranks.

The announcement follows Page's return to the line-up in January after a five-year absence due to illness. Sam Moran, his replacement, was asked to stand down to accommodate his comeback.

"It's been so great having Greg back with us so far this year," said Fatt, 58. "To finish our time on stage all together again seems so fitting."

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