The Tasmanian devils

La Lagune

The Tasmanian devils

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TASMANIAN DEVILS are marsupials that are now found in the wild only in Tasmania, a large island off the southern coast of Australia. They have stocky, muscular bodies and large heads, with very powerful jaws that are strong enough to crack bones. They have a reputation for being bad-tempered! In fact, they are rather shy animals, and are only aggressive when competing with their fellow creatures, particularly for food. As opportunistic carnivores, they eat all sorts of wild animals, but they are also scavengers that can devour whole carcasses quickly and noisily in groups (fights often occur between the diners!). This healthy cleaning up process is much appreciated. The females give birth to young that are not fully developed and finish growing in their mother's pouch.

A HIGHLY ENDANGERED SPECIES

Tasmanian Devils came close to extinction after intensive hunting by settlers to protect their livestock. Fortunately, they became legally protected in 1941, which allowed the species to re-establish itself. However, since 1996, there has been another serious threat to their survival: a new virus, specific to the species, known as DFTD (Devil Facial Tumour Disease), causes facial tumours that develop into cancer and kill the animal by preventing it from feeding. The disease is contagious, and is mainly transmitted by bites inflicted by Tasmanian Devils on each other during fights. More than 90% of the population has died out in the last 20 years. Various protection and research programmes have been launched to save the species from extinction. The first step is to isolate populations of healthy animals so that they can reproduce and the species can be reintroduced to the wild in the future. The next step is to develop a vaccine to immunise the animals and stop the epidemic from progressing further.

WHERE DO OUR TWO DEVILS COME FROM?

Cradle and Cradoc are two male devils that were born in 2013 at Copenhagen Zoo, which at that time was the only European zoo with a mating pair of these rare animals (their parents).  They had been given as a gift to celebrate the marriage of Prince Frederik of Denmark and Mary Donaldson, who was born in Tasmania. Copenhagen Zoo, in partnership with the Trowunna Animal Park (“Trowunna” means “Tasmania” in the Aboriginal language) gave the two little devils to Pairi Daiza, in order to raise awareness about the plight of this amazing species. We are grateful to them, and very proud to present Cradle and Cradoc for the first time in this 2017 season, in their big new enclosure at the entrance to the Australian area, Mura Mura.

 

The Tasmanian devils in image

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