Devastating photos of diseased Tassie devil prompts concerns

By AG Staff 26 September 2017
Reading Time: 2 Minutes Print this page
Photographs of the devil captured late last week show the animal wandering along a roadside with visible patches of fur missing.

A TASMANIAN devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) was photographed late last week travelling down a roadside in northern Tasmania, close to Badger Head, with large patches of fur missing, prompting major concerns from observers.

After pictures of the sick looking Tassie devil were posted online, people began speculating that it may have alopecia, a fur loss condition the animal often suffers from.

“Apart from the wide area alopecia, the abdomen seemed to be grossly swollen for whatever reason. Awful,” one commenter noted.   

An official spokesperson for the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) told Australian Geographic that the devil displayed symptoms “consistent with a type of skin cancer which is known to affect older Tasmanian devils,” who are particularly susceptible to these diseases.

Image alt text

(Image Credit: Scott King)

The Department explained that diseases like those pictured in the photographs taken by Scott King from his vehicle late last week are common. 

“Ongoing state-wide surveys are undertaken of Tasmanian devils and these surveys, which provide important information on population trends and health of populations, occasionally detect animals with this and other types of cancers as well,” they said.

The department confirmed that there is no evidence of this cancer behaving in a transmissible way and reports of it are within normal levels.

“The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program continues to monitor populations around the State and so is able to identify other factors which may be impacting statewide or local populations,” they added. 

In Tasmania, Tassie devil populations have been devastated by diseases, particularly Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), which has invaded about two-thirds of the state. And unlike the skin cancer pictured in these latest photographs, it is transmissible.