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The survival of the Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrissi) is currently under threat from a serious fatal infectious cancer. This information is taken from the DPIPWE website
What is a Tasmanian Devil?Edit
The world's largest surviving carnivorous marsupial, the devil has a thick-set, squat build, with a relatively large, broad head and short, thick tail. The fur is mostly or wholly black, but white markings often occur on the rump and chest. Body size also varies greatly, depending on the diet and habitat. Adult males are usually larger than adult females. Large males weigh up to 12 kg, and stand about 30 cm high at the shoulder.
What is Devil Facial Tumour Disease?Edit
DFTD describes a horrific and fatal condition in Tasmanian devils which is characterised by the appearance of facial cancers. The tumours or cancers are first noticed in and around the mouth as small lesions or lumps. These develop into large tumours around the face and neck and sometimes even in other parts of the body.
DFTD is extremely unusual as it is only one of three recorded cancers that can spread like a contagious disease. The cancer is passed from devil to devil through biting. The live tumour cells aren’t rejected by their immune system because of a lack of genetic diversity among Tasmanian devils.
DFTD affects mainly adults - males seem to be the first affected, then females - although juveniles as young as one can also be infected. When the disease is advanced Tasmanian devils may have many cancers throughout the body.
Infected devils may become emaciated if the tumours interfere with teeth and feeding. Many females lose their young. Infected animals die within months of the lesions first appearing. | colspan="2" width="33%"| |}
What effect is DFTD having on Tasmanian devil populations?Edit
DFTD was first noticed in 1996 in the north-east of Tasmania. By February 2010 the disease had spread across more than 60% of the State, moving at a rate of seven to 20km per year, depending on the habitat of the region.
There has been an 80% decline in average sightings across Tasmania since the disease emerged. In the north-east region, 'ground zero', there has been an estimated 95% decline of average spotlighting sightings.
The proportion of animals displaying signs of the disease at any one site has reached up to 83% of trapped adults. Such populations are not viable in the long term.
New cases continue to occur in areas where the disease had not previously been recorded as the disease front moves westwards. To date, no cases of DFTD have been confirmed west of the Murchison Highway, which roughly runs between Burnie and Queenstown.
At February 2010, populations in the western third of the State appear to have remained healthy and viable.
There is strong concern that, if the devil population continues to diminish while fox numbers increase, it may be difficult for the devils to ever recover.
Volunteering to help save the Tasmanian DevilEdit
Volunteers are vital to achieving our goal of saving the Tasmanian devil.
University students, retirees, animal lovers and dedicated locals are among the hundreds of volunteers who have given their time and energy to the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program. You don’t need any qualifications. There are just a few requirements regarding health and mobility to consider.
Volunteers from as far away as the USA, Asia and Europe have worked alongside enthusiastic locals. Some stay for a few weeks – others remain dedicated for years.
See Tasmania’s wild natural beauty, actively help Tasmanian wildlife, and grow as a person.
Our wildlife management tasks fit into the broad categories of: • field monitoring • disease suppression.
A typical survey lasts approximately 11 - 12 days. While team leaders trap and release Tasmanian devils, volunteers assist with duties such as scrubbing and cleaning traps and scribing.
The days can be long, the weather unpredictable and the mobile phone coverage will be limited or non-existent. You will, however, four-wheel drive into breathtakingly beautiful places that very few people get to see.
Volunteering for Field MonitoringEdit
You will work on beautiful farming properties on the northwest coast and near Mt Field National Park, selective forestry areas across the State and Mt William National Park (on the north-east tip of the State).
Volunteering for Disease SuppressionEdit
Disease suppression trials are ongoing on the Forestier-Tasman Peninsulas. These trips cover many different locations across peninsulas famous for their natural beauty. You may want to schedule time to visit world renowned heritage sites such as Port Arthur and Eaglehawk Neck while you are in the area.
Wages: not included
Travel: not included
Food: usually included
Accommodation: usually included
How do I volunteer?Edit
Testimonials and advice from former volunteersEdit
Tasmanian devils need your help! Edit
Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) is a fatal condition that is currently affecting most populations of Tassie devils.
We need your help in the field !
VOLUNTEER WORK INVOLVES:
• Live Trapping • Remote cameras • Field Data scribing