Australia's Tasmanian Devils were listed as endangered yesterday. While their population has been decimated by almost 60 percent, scientists believe there is still hope that some animals can survive a deadly disease that has threatened their existance.
Since the discovery of The Devil Facial Tumour Disease in 1995, Australia's Tasmanian Devils have dropped from 150 thousand to only about 20,000. Scientists say the quick spread of the disease has been alarming.
[Doctor Clare Hawkins, Scientist]:
"You start getting really upset when you come back to a site regularly, and you see how much the numbers have dropped, and you realise that not a single animal is lasting to an older age, the disease is getting all of them and they're all dying.”
The unusual contagious cancer is spread through biting during fights for food or mates, and produces gross lesions around the mouth, head and neck.
It has been estimated that if nothing is done to save the Devils they could be extinct within the next 20 to 25 years.
For a long time scientists did not hold out much hope for the species, but recently they have discovered some Tasmanian Devils that are resistant to the cancer. One of those is named Cedric. Kept under close watch in quarantine, Cedric has shown no sign of developing the disease, and has shown an immune response to the cancer, giving scientists hope there may be other devils like Cedric who can survive.
Recent research on the animals in the west of the state shows the disease is slowing in the area and some animals may have genes diverse enough to resist the disease.
The Tasmanian Devil is a carnivorous marsupial about the size of a small muscular dog. It has black fur, gives off a skunk-like odour when stressed, and earns its devil name for its ferocious temperament and disturbing call.
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