Why are our furry friends dying?

The Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii), part of the Dasyuridae family was once thriving on mainland Australia, but when dingoes were introduced to Australia, they went extinct about 3200 years ago, according to research.

In the 1990s, the devils were struck with what is now commonly known as DFTD or Devil Facial Tumour Disease. Reservation organisations such as Aussie Ark have been made outside of Tasmania to stop disease spreading and to breed unaffected devils to bring their numbers back up.1

DFTD can spread when the devils are eating together or in breeding season when they battle for mates. Devils are also very misunderstood as lots of people don’t know about them. If you ignore the scratching, screaming and carcasses, Tasmanian Devil behaviour can appear similar to humans. They have a method of communication and some vocal sounds are known to have a meaning.2

Early Findings

Believing it to be a type of opossum, naturalist George Harris wrote the first published description of the Tasmanian devil in 1807, naming it Didelphis ursina. It was called Didelphis because it was classified as a marsupial and ursina was because it had bear characteristics, such as facial features.

However, that particular name had already been given to the common wombat (later reclassified as Vombatus ursinus) by George Shaw in 1800. In 1838, a specimen was named Dasyurus laniarius by Richard Owen, but by 1877 he had changed it to Sarcophilus. The modern Tasmanian devil was named Sarcophilus harrisii (“Harris’s flesh-lover”) by French naturalist Pierre Boitard in 1841.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tasmanian_devil
  2. https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/after-20-years-of-facial-cancers-tasmanian-devil-ark-project-seeks-to-double-its-insurance-population-20160720-gq9uq9.html
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