God help the devils!

Published: Monday 28 February 2005

A suffering devil: the facial< (Credit: Christo baars)Their name is but a sign of human ignorance and does not deny them their rightful place in this world. But the wild devils of Australia's Tasmania state are in grave danger, facing the threat of extinction from a facial tumour disease. Three new cases of the disease, which has already halved their population, in the state's southern part have triggered an alarm. It is also feared that the disease might have spread to the parts of the state believed to be unaffected till now.

The government's Devil Taskforce recently released a report on the disease over the past year. But it offers no explanation for how and why it kills the animal in such large numbers. "We are dealing with a new disease here that hasn't been recorded anywhere else in the world," says project manager Alistair Scott. Wildlife biologist Nick Mooney warns that reduced number of devils will disturb the region's ecology. "Bush hygiene has suffered...probably there will be an effect in the landscape of other species...Where you remove devils from the landscape and there is still all the food, nature won't tolerate that... something will happen to react to that."

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