Tasmanian Devil, Tasmania, Australia by Fiona Ruck

Picture Story

There is nothing ‘wilder’ in Tasmania than the Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii). This elusive and shy carnivore lives in the forests and wilderness areas of Tasmania and is aptly named for its spine-chilling growls and shrieks which can be heard when it’s fighting for food or mates. The worlds largest carnivorous marsupial – (around the size of a small dog - males weigh around 8kg at 65cm long and females 6kg at 57cm long) are mainly active during the night when it scavenges for dead animals throughout the vast wilderness areas and has even been known to wait until its meal is dead before consuming it. This may possibly be the case with ‘Road Kill’ when animals, especially Wallabies, are injured. It is sad to see Road Kill, especially when the Tasmanian Devil itself has fallen victim. Unfortunately, this animal is now at risk of extinction in the wild not only due to Road Kill, but also an unusual transmissible cancer known as Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) and is therefore listed as ‘Endangered’ with the IUCN. Until recently, this interesting animal was only found in Tasmania – hence the name, but is now being reintroduced to New South Wales on the mainland with a small breeding population (it is thought that the Devil existed on the mainland a very long time ago, but got wiped out by the Dingo, which is not present in Tasmania). The Tasmanian Devil has a ‘backward’ pouch for its young, so that when it digs the young are not covered in dirt. The female gives birth to 20-30 live young after three weeks gestation, but because the female only has 4 teats to supply milk, competition is fierce and only a few survive.

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