The Tasmanian devil - level 3
Not quite as lively as their cartoon counterparts, these Tasmanian devils have been reintroduced to their natural habitat from a breeding centre as part of a plan designed to save the carnivorous marsupials from a cancer threatening them with extinction. The group of 22 devils were flown from Sydney to Tasmania to be released.
Devil facial tumour disease has caused the population to plummet to around 10,000 now from an estimated 250,000 before 1996 when the disease was discovered. The disease causes large lumps to form around the animal's mouth and head, making it hard for them to eat.
“It's a contagious cancer – one of only a very small handful known in the world so what happens is, it's transferred simply by touch, so devils natural feeding behavior and mating behavior wherever they come into contact with one another, this disease can be transmitted and thus the rapid decline.
It's a very, very nasty disease. After three months we see symptoms, after six months those devils are gone.”
The project has taken four years to reach a point of reintroduction into the wild. Prior to transporting and releasing the animals, they are sprayed and checked for lice and insects.
You might be surprised to learn that despite their cute bear-like appearance, the devils actually live up to their name and can be quite fierce.
The Tasmanian devil is the world's largest carnivorous marsupial, reaching 30 inches in length (76 centimetres) and weighing up to 26 pounds (12 kilograms).
Difficult words: counterpart (somebody/something similar), carnivorous (meat-eating), marsupial (an animal like the kangaroo which carries its babies in a pocket of skin on its body), plummet (decrease, go down), lump (outgrowth, tumour), mating (sexual), thus (as a result), prior to (before), fierce (aggressive).
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