“The Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) is a carnivorous marsupial of the family Dasyuridae, now found in the wild only in Tasmania. Recently Tasmanian devils have suffered greatly from a mysterious cancer that appears to be passed directly from animal to animal by biting. The disease causes terrible tumours around the face and is always fatal, killing the host about five months after the first signs of the disease. Around half the wild devil population has succumbed in the last 10 years.”
Considered to be one of the famous icons of Tasmania, I had my first encounter of the Tasmanian devil during my visit to the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. Even before arriving in Tasmania, I was already intrigued about this unique animal. Of course who cannot recall TAZ the famous Looney tunes character.
Here are some interesting facts about the Tassie devil:
§ Devils are not monogamous, and their reproductive process is very robust and competitive.
§ Males fight one another for the females, and then guard their partners to prevent female infidelity.
§ Females can ovulate three times in as many weeks during the mating season, and 80% of two-year-old females are seen to be pregnant during the annual mating season.
§ Females average four breeding seasons in their life and give birth to 20–30 live young after three weeks' gestation. As there are only four nipples in the pouch, competition is fierce and few newborns survive.
§ The newborn are pink, lack fur, have indistinct facial features and weigh around 0.20 g (0.0071 oz.) at birth.
§ Since the late 1990s, devil facial tumour disease has drastically reduced the devil population and now threatens the survival of the species. In 2008 it was declared endangered.
§ Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park is the ideal place to see these fascinating creatures. It was established in 1978 as the world's first Tasmanian devil centre.
To help out in saving the remaining Tasmanian devils in the world visit the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park website: http://www.tasmaniandevilpark.com/friends.html