The deadly Tasmanian Devil disease

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What is the Tasmanian Devil disease all about?

The Devil Facial Tumour disease (DFTD) is a fatal condition, characterised by the appearance of obvious facial cancers. It is highly contagious, passed from one animal to another through biting.

What happens when devils become infected?

Tumours make it difficult to feed. This leads to devils becoming emaciated.

No cure for the disease has been found as yet.

Since the disease first emerged, there has been a 64% drop in devil numbers across Tasmania (as of December 2008). It is believed that our beloved Tasmanian devil may become extinct within three to twenty years.

Fighting back

However there is some good news:

  • The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program has been established to investigate the disease and identify management options.
  • The Tasmanian government has commenced a captive breeding program to establish a disease-free, genetically-diverse population of devils outside Tasmania. Already devils have been sent to mainland wildlife parks, far away from the threat of DFTD.

Save the Tasmanian Devil Program

Key components of the Save the Tasmanian Devil program include:

  • Population monitoring - keeping track of ups and downs of devil populations in Tasmania, in relation to the effects of the disease
  • Disease diagnostics - trying to get to the bottom of what is causing the disease and finding ways to combat it, in the lab
  • Wild management - looking at how to keep the disease from causing further damage to devils in the wild
  • Insurance population - establishing and maintaining "quarantined" pools of uninfected devils as "insurance" against threat of extinction

How you can help

Yes there is something you can do! You can:

  • report sightings
  • make a monetary contribution to the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program Appeal

For more information on the above, visit the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment page on the Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease.

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