The Devil fights back

The Tasmanian Devil is threatened with extinction in the wild due to a contagious tumour that has been sweeping through the population over a period of around 20 years, wiping out vast numbers of animals.

To its immense credit the Tasmanian state government has set up a Save the Tasmanian Devil programme with the Zoo and Aquarium Association.  Under this “insurance policy” about 600 disease-free animals are kept in captivity at zoos, wildlife parks and sanctuaries in Tasmania and on mainland Australia.  During our trip we will visit a couple of these sanctuaries, at Bonorong and Devils@Cradle to see first-hand the brilliant work they are doing.

But now news from the University of Tasmania suggests that some Tasmanian Devils have developed immunity to devil facial tumour disease (DFTD).  This is encouraging on two counts: we now know that some animals can naturally fight the disease and will hopefully pass on their resistance to future generations in the wild, and researchers can use the data being captured to support the further development of an immunisation programme that has already seen two groups of immunised Devils successfully released into the wild.

Plainly these are early days, but it’s great to know that evolution and science are both doing their bit to save this charismatic critter.  The Devil’s fighting back.

Author: Platypus Man

"Platypus" is a red herring: I'm English, although my blogging career began in my record of a 2016 road trip to Tasmania. Other blogs followed covering road trips in Newfoundland (2017), the Yellowstone area of the USA (2018) and New Zealand (2019). My current project is "Now I'm 64" , a weekly blog covering UK travel and wildlife, along with bits of history, social commentary and moans about the injustice of aging. I can guarantee a few laughs, and also the occasional rant. Some of it's even quite well written!

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