The Tasmanian Devil is the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world. They are mainly scavengers preferring to feed on carcasses than hunt; however they have been known to take down small kangaroos. They can be quite the glutton, scoffing down up to 15% of their total body weight.
The devil has a very muscular body and generally grows to the size of a small dog. Being nocturnal they hunt / scavenge at night. Many a first time camper in the Tasmanian bush has been left scared stiff in their tents after hearing the devils unique but frightening growls and snarls.
Males will fight over a female for mating rights and the female will mate with the most dominant of those males. In the wild the devil has a maximum life expectancy of five years but they can live up to four years longer in captivity.
Since 1996 a deadly cancer called Devil Facial Tumour Disease has wiped out over half the wild population with over 80% of the remaining devils thought to be affected. The disease is a transmittable cancer (contagious and passed from one animal to another) Unfortunately one of the ways devils communicate with each other is by touching noses, helping the spread of this awful disease.
The Tasmania Devil is now at a tipping point for survival. With no cure for Devil Facial Tumour Cancer, which is now ravaging most of its habitat, quarantine areas have been set up around healthy populations on Tasmania. Scientists have also been removing healthy devils from the wild and placing them in captive breeding programs at zoos and wild life sanctuaries across the main land as an insurance policy for their survival.
Although the Tasmanian Devil is not the most endearing of animals and with a bad reputation brought on by farmers protecting their lambs, and its destructive image on Looney Tunes cartoons, it still does have a special place in Australia and is just another example of a species reliant on zoos or wildlife parks for its very survival. We can only hope that the devil does not go down the same path as the Tasmanian Tiger which became extinct in 1936.