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Sunday, April 20, 2014
Creature Feature #183: Devil
The Tasmanian Devil is the largest extant carnivorous marsupial. Once spread across Australia, it is suspected that hunting pressures and competition with foxes and dingo have restricted her range to the island of Tasmania. She is predominently a scavenger, although will prey on wombats and has even been known to kill kangaroo. Roadkill is a more recent favourite, and brings with it inherant risks. Although a solitary hunter, eating is a social occasion and when one Devil discovers a carcass, others will soon gather. With her powerful jaws, the entire carcass will be reduced to nothing with even fur and bone consumed. Unfortunately, the entire species is under threat due to a particularly unpleasant disease - Devil Facial Tumour Disease - a contagious cancer that affects the Devil's face and prevents it from eating leading to eventual death by starvation. Some local populations have suffered a 25-50% decline. Conservation has stepped in to do their best to save the species: removing sick animals, and quarantining healthy ones in captivity.
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