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Tasmanian Devil: Are They Going Extinct?

Tasmanian Devils may become extinct

Tasmanian Devils may become extinct

Tasmanian Devils, one of Australia’s unique animals, are facing possible extinction.

For once, it’s not pollution or human encroachment on an animals habitat that’s to blame. The cause: an infection that causes cancer in the faces of these adorable creatures.

The cancer, called Devil Facial Tumor Disease, is extremely virulent. It has killed off 90 percent of the world’s Tasmanian Devil population since it was first observed in 1996. That’s up from 70 percent 9 months ago.

Scientific American reports that the only hope for these animals is isolating healthy ones in disease-free sanctuaries. Once infected, there is no treatment or cure for the illness. If they do become extinct in the wild, those providing the sanctuaries hope that one day they will be able to repopulate Tasmania with devils that were bred in captivity.

I cannot wait till my daughter gets home so I can tell her all this.

At 6, she is fascinated by exotic animals. I know more about the Blue Morpho Butterfly than I would have thought possible, for example.

Like many kids, she wants to make the world a better place. She often chooses to give more than her required tithe from her allowance money, because she’s moved by a charitable cause. Learning about animals in need is the perfect snowy day project for a kid her age.

The Tasmanian Devils are especially interesting because she knows about them from cartoons. It’s always a thrill to take a character or image from one of her favorite cartoons and make it real. Teaching her about the devils and their plight will connect her Saturday morning TV to her school work and our real life.

Photo: Dana Taylor

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