Dying of cancer, Tasmanian devils to be listed as endangered
May 20, 2008
A deadly form of contagious face cancer has forced the Tasmanian devil on to the endangered species list.
According to a state official, the carnivorous marsupial will be listed on May 21, 2008.
“The change in the Devil’s status reflects the real possibility that this iconic species could face extinction in the wild within 20 years,” David Llewellyn, Tasmanian Minister for Primary Industries and Water, said in a statement.
Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) is characterized by lesions around the devil’s mouth and head, according to Save the Tasmanian Devil, a web site run jointly by the Tasmanian Government and University of Tasmania. Infected animals usually die within three to eight months of the first appearance of lesions.
Scientists say cancer has reduced the population of the Tasmanian devil by half between 1995 and 2005. The species, which is presently endemic to the island of Tasmania, went extinct on the Australian mainland in the 15th century, following the introduction of the dingo, a wild dog, thousands of years earlier.
Conservationists are working to ensure the survival of the species but DFTD has already spread across 60 percent of the island.