Help us save the Tasmanian devil
ENDEARING IS NOT A word you would use to describe the Tasmanian devil’s screeching, but somehow the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial has captured Australia’s heart.
However, these devils are in need.
Tasmanian devil numbers have fallen dramatically in the past 15 years due to an infectious disease decimating the population.
The facial lesions first began appearing in 1996. In 1997 histological examinations showed they were caused by a transmissible cancer, which was then named Devil Facial Tumour Disease.
Since then, over 85% of the devil population has been wiped out. The devil’s cantankerous nature – they bite each other’s faces during intercourse and occasionally while feeding – caused the cancer to spread with astonishing speed throughout the wild population. Causing cancerous growths in the face, this disease is always fatal and despite research, there’s currently no known cure.
Tasmanian devil facts
• Named after the person who scientifically described them, the devil’s scientific name, Sarcophilus harrisii, means ‘Harris’s meat-lover’.
• Cannibalism is common among the species, rendering devils particularly susceptible to infection.
• Devils are capable of consuming up to 40 per cent of their body weight in 30 minutes.
• A devil’s yawn is normally a sign of stress or uncertainty and may be an unconscious attempt at distraction.
• These nocturnal creatures are the largest of the 61 species in the Dasyuridae family, which includes antechinuses and quolls.
Hope for the future
We still have a chance to turn the situation around. Our fundraiser is proudly supporting the work of the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, the largest single species conservation project in Australia, by directing funds to their Appeal, as well as to Devil Ark, an innovative captive breeding program located on mainland Australia.
Rebecca Cuthill, Manager of the Save the Tasmanian Devil Appeal, describes the Program as one that is “guided by a vision of an enduring and ecologically functional population of Tasmanian devils living wild in Tasmania.”
In its many years of working for the devil’s cause, the program has made progress towards the goal of establishing what is known as an ‘insurance population’ – a group of breeding, healthy devils large enough to ensure that genetic diversity is not lost within the devil population.
Devil Ark is a NSW initiative located near Barrington Tops National Park participating in the strengthening of the insurance population by genetically matching individual devils to ensure maximum variability is maintained in the population. Partner organisations for these groups include the Zoo Aquarium Association, the University of Tasmania and the Devil Island Project.
These programs, and others like them, are crucial in ensuring that the Tasmanian devil does not follow the Tasmanian tiger to an early grave.
Donations to the AG Society Tasmanian Devil Appeal will go towards the rehabilitation of the Tasmanian devil population. The eventual aim is to secure an enduring population of disease-free devils living in the wild.