Monday, January 25, 2010

Devil Take the Hindmost

On Saturday David and I drove my mother down to the Port Arthur penal colony for some historical education, and we stopped at the Tasmania devil conservation park en route.

TAZWhen I first told friends about our impending Tasmanian adventure, there were lot of jokes about watching out for rabid cartoon characters.  Most of you probably know Taz, the giant, slobbering whirlwind of a Tasmanian devil imagined into popular culture by Looney Tunes.  In reality, devils are quite shy little animals, about the same size as the average cat.  They sleep their days away, and go foraging for carrion at night.  Their name comes from the absolutely terrifying noises they make when they find carrion and start to fight amongst themselves for the privilege of eating it.  And they eat it with a set of jaws about the same size as those on your average dog.  As such, your average Tasmanian devil is about 60% body and 40% head.

napping

tassie_devil

Unfortunately for the little devils, their constant squabbling over food is rapidly leading to their demise.  The Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) is endemic in the wild population – one of only three known contagious cancers.  The conservation park is currently breeding a disease-free population while working on a cure, so we were happy to pay their relatively steep admission fees.  Poor little devils, indeed.

6 comments:

Grey Horse Matters said...

A really interesting little animal. I think they're kinda cute, but that's just me. Glad you got to see them.

Carole said...

I do admire those badass little critters... I hope they are able to find a cure or eradicate the disease somehow.

AareneX said...

see, your mum was right: being nice is better for ya.

Rising Rainbow said...

Thanks for the info, I had no idea.

avec amy said...

Does the average cat include Bilbo? He might be bigger than one of these little devils. I wasn't aware that there were contagious forms of cancer. Interesting post!

Breathe said...

Poor... angry little things!

That sounds like a terrible disease, even if there's a bit of poetic justice in it. Hopefully they can find a way to help.

Or perhaps they could spike their carrion with some mellowing agent. Ludes for Tasmanians!