A healthy Tasmanian devil, Sarcophilus harrisii, is shown in this photo from Tasmania’s Department of Primary Industries. Researchers estimate the wild population has fallen from 140,000 in the 1990s to 80,000 due to Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD), an illness that creates grotesque tumors on the animals’ snouts that lead to starvation within a year.
A cancer that causes facial tumors on Australia’s Tasmanian devil has brought the carnivorous marsupial to the brink of extinction, a leading researcher has said. Local populations of the animal have already been savaged by the mysterious disease, which results in malignant facial tumors. Over the past decade, tens of thousands of Tasmanian devils have been killed by Devil Facial Tumour Disease.
Hamish McCallum, professor of wildlife research at the University of Tasmania’s school of zoology, said the disease, which usually results in death six months after the appearance of the first lesions, could lead to the extinction of the species within a decade.
Scientists recently met in Australia’s island state of Tasmania to find ways of tackling the disease. The diseased animals develop facial tumours, which can grow so large that they prevent feeding. Scientists fear the devils – which are a symbol for Tasmania – could become extinct if action is not taken.
Tasmania’s other famous carnivore, the thylacine or Tasmanian tiger, became extinct in the 1930s.