They’re currently only 150,000 devils living in the wild, from 250,000 just a decade earlier (devilark.com). These startling numbers of Tasmanian devils living in the wild are due to a contagious and deadly disease, ultimately leaving extinction for this species inevitable.
According to a recent report, it appears that a cancer known as “devil facial tumor disease,” has caused the death of almost 90% of the remaining Tasmanian devils in the wild.
The devil facial tumor disease is the only known cancer that spreads as a contagious disease. The disease is transmitted through biting. The spreading of this disease is common because Tasmanian devils bite each other on the mouth when mating.
Once a devil is infected, signs of the disease appear in the mouth within a few short months, usually in the form of small lesions. As time goes on the small lesions develop into large tumors leaving the disease to destroy the animal’s mouth and making it impossible for these little creatures to eat. The Tasmanian devil is left to starve to death.
Australia is fighting for the animal’s survival by building a sanctuary where disease-free captive populations can live. The “ Devil Ark,” is located in Barrington, Australia and is currently one of the world’s largest breeding populations of captive Tasmanian devils.
In addition to the Tasmanian devil sanctuary in Australia, the “Devil Island” was constructed in Bicheno, Tasmania and has been successfully maintaining breeding of 12 disease-free devils.