Deadly Tasmanian Devil cancer found in 'clean' area

Dec 10, 2011
A deadly cancer riddling Tasmanian Devil has been found in an area thought to be free of the disease, troubling officials struggling to keep the animal alive in the wild. The facial tumour disease has so far been confirmed across more than 60 percent of the small island state of Tasmania, but it came as a surprise that it was found in one animal in the Zeehan area in the state's west.

A deadly cancer riddling Australia's Tasmanian Devil has been found in an area thought to be free of the disease, troubling officials struggling to keep the animal alive in the wild.

The facial disease has so far been confirmed across more than 60 percent of the small island state of Tasmania, but it came as a surprise that it was found in one animal in the Zeehan area in the state's west.

"Although our monitoring does indicate a westward movement of the disease, and we expected to continue to detect cases west of the known perimeter, this detection is not in an area we expected to see the disease at this stage," Save the Program's Howel Williams said Friday.

The furry marsupials were declared endangered in 2009 after the contagious cancer began sweeping through the population, disfiguring their faces so badly they are unable to eat and starve to death.

Estimates suggest that some 70 percent of devils have already been lost to the infectious disease, which is spread by biting.

Williams said the sickness, which scientists believe could see the entire wild population of devils vanish within 20 to 50 years, was unusual in its persistence.

The detection of a case beyond the known perimeter highlighted to officials that they could not rely on a single measure to conserve the species in the wild, he said.

Williams said the government had a "thriving" insurance population of Devils, which secured the animals's long-term future in captivity and was working to keep other areas in the wild free of the disease.

Williams told ABC Radio that officials would press ahead with plans to build a 12.5 kilometre (almost 8 mile) fence to protect healthy devils in the wild from infected animals in one part of the state's west.

Tasmanian devils first came to prominence when their unearthly shrieks and grunts while devouring corpses of dead animals terrified European settlers arriving on the island in the 19th century.

Explore further: Breakthrough in coccidiosis research

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Culling can't save the Tasmanian devil

Oct 04, 2011

Culling will not control the spread of facial tumour disease among Tasmanian devils, according to a new study published this week in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology. Unless a way ...

Famed Tasmanian devil euthanized after tumor found

Sep 01, 2010

(AP) -- A Tasmanian devil named Cedric, once thought to be immune to a contagious facial cancer threatening the iconic creatures with extinction, has been euthanized after succumbing to the disease, researchers ...

Recommended for you

Breakthrough in coccidiosis research

5 hours ago

Biological researchers at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) are a step closer to finding a new cost-effective vaccine for the intestinal disease, coccidiosis, which can have devastating effects on poultry ...

Vietnam's taste for cat leaves pets in peril

10 hours ago

The enduring popularity of "little tiger" as a snack to accompany a beer in Vietnam means that cat owners live in constant fear of animal snatchers, despite an official ban.

New species of mayfly discovered in India

11 hours ago

Scientists have discovered a new species of mayfly in the southern Western Ghats, a mountain range along the west coast of India. In fact, this is the first time that any mayfly belonging to the genus Labiobaetis has be ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

feralblue
not rated yet Dec 11, 2011
i am very saddened to read that this disease is still spreading and, of course, am so glad that they are keeping a breeding group free of it. i know the devils are extremely vicious, but they really are cute when 'at rest' :] it's so great that many of us are working to save the planet now. Gaia needs our help to help us in the long run. and now for a joke, but i can't think of any !!!
Jonseer
1 / 5 (1) Dec 11, 2011
Typical Australian incompetence in saving wildlife. It should be no surprise that Australia has the highest by far of extinctions per capita of all the nations in the world.

In their desire to maintain impossible idealistic standards for maintaining the Devil's population in the wild they have sacrificed 70% of them.

It'd be far better to round up as many as possible and send them to a safe site where they can wait until those that are infected die from natural causes, then bring the healthy ones back home to rebuild their #s.

It would also probably cost less.
feralblue
not rated yet Dec 17, 2011
it would be good if a person really read the article - it says right in there that they are keeping a group of them safe:

"Williams said the government had a "thriving" insurance population of Devils, which secured the animals's long-term future in captivity. . . ."