Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Not to be confused with the wombat, a thriving herbivorous marsupial native to Australia and Tasmania, is the Tasmanian devil, a carnivorous marsupial which is in dire straits. They are severely threatened on their indigenous island by Devil Facial Tumor Disease, an aggressive parasitic cancer which begins with lesions around the mouth (IMAGE ABOVE) and spreads to the entire body. The disease is not contagious, but is spread among the devils by coming into contact with cancerous cells, by biting during fights for food for mates. DFTD is 100% fatal within 12 to 18 months. Since the first case was described in 1996, the population of Tasmanian devils has declined by 70%, and now 80% of the remaining devils are infected. Because they have not mounted an immune defense, they are facing extinction within the next 10-20 years. In an attempt to prevent that from happening, the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program bred healthy devils in captivity and released them on Maria Island off Tasmania's east coast. A year later, they have had about 20 babies, bringing the total population to approximately 50. Manager of the program David Pemberton hopes to repopulate Tasmania if and when the cancer strikes down all the wild animals. In addition to breeding, the captive-bred devils are interacting with humans – a behavior not uncommon to the wild ones in their search for material to make their dens. More than once, they have chewed on and disappeared with the hiking boots of tourists who have come for the Maria Island Walk. Owner Ian Johnstone laughs, "We're coming up with an ingenious way of hanging our boots up on lines so they are out of reach from the devils. There's going to be Australia's first Tasmanian devil-free clothesline for boots."

No comments:

Post a Comment

You may add your comments here.