Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Radical Plan to Save the Tasmanian Devil

A radical plan is being suggested to save the Tasmanian devil from extinction.

The rare marsupial once inhabited wide areas of Australia, but predation and human impacts wiped it out everywhere but the small island state of Tasmania. A healthy population of 150,000 had flourished there until the mid 1990s when a mysterious facial cancer began sweeping through the island.

Dubbed devil facial tumor disease, the infectious cancer spreads through mouth to mouth conflict and infects the face with large visible tumours. Eventually, the cancer crowds out the animal's teeth, essentially starving it to death as eating and hunting become more difficult.

Scientists believe that many as 70,000 have already perished, with 65% of the remaining population infected. In the northeast of the state where the disease was first diagnosed, 90% of the population has disappeared.

Now, scientists are proposing a controversial plan to transfer 30 healthy animals to nearby Maria Island - a national park that is also home to several endangered bird species.

Critics are concerned about the impact that the new species will have on local species, an understandable fear given Australia's previous failed experiments in introducing foreign species to sensitive habitats. However, unless a new home or a miracle cure is found there will be no uninfected Tasmanian devils in as little as 5 years.

Those wanting to help save the species can visit the Save the Tasmanian Devil website to donate or find out more.

1 comment:

WindWhisperer said...

What a tragic story...I think it's better they try a radical plan than let the species completely die out.