This Little Devil Won’t Change His Ways, But He’s Still Worth Saving
The Tasmanian devil population is on the verge of being wiped out by a contagious cancer.
by Jenna Shapiro
To many, the Tasmanian devil is a just a rowdy, screeching Looney Tunes character. But to those in Australia, the devil is a national symbol and was once a common sight in its wildlife landscape. However, now this beloved creature is being severely threatened by a strange contagious cancer.
The cancer is fast spreading and extremely deadly− it’s already killed 84 percent of the Tasmanian devil population. To date, there are only around 35,000 of the devils left in the wild.
The gravity of the situation can be seen in scientists’ most recent plan to ensure the species’ survival: 15 cancer-free Tasmanian devils were released onto nearby Maria Island. The scientists hope to create a healthy population of devils in case the cancer wipes out the remaining ones in Tasmania. In addition to the Maria devils, 500 healthy devils have also been placed in zoos and wildlife sanctuaries. The devils on Maria Island will safeguard the species from becoming too domesticated to survive in the wild, which could happen if they were solely bred in zoos.
These extreme measures are necessary due to the unique nature of the Tasmanian devils’ cancer. Officially called the Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD), this fast-moving cancer is contagious. It can be spread from devil to devil, unlike most cancers, which cannot be spread through contact…
(read more: TakePart) (photo: JJ Harrison)