Tasmanian Devils

The national icon of Tasmania

General Information

The Tasmanian Devil (scientific name Sarcophilus harrisii is often seen as the icon of Tasmania. It is about the size of a small dog, but is considered the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world, since the Thylacine is extinct. But the Tasmanian Devil is slowly travelling that road, due to devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) and other factors, such as accidents with motor vehicles. As a result, there are now only 10, 000 devils left in the wild. However, humans are doing what they can to save the species, including quarantining them and performing genetic research to give the species an immunity to the disease.
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The natural habitat of the Tasmanian Devil is mostly in dry sclerophyll forests around Tasmania. In the zoo, they live in a similar habitat, but much smaller. In the zoo, they also have a small area near a fake road, as it is a common place for devils to hang around. The zoo habitat also had a small body of water on the outskirts of the habitat. But essentially, each habitat is the same, as they are both dry sclerophyll and with a low rainfall.


In the wild, Tasmanian Devils are often found by the side of the road eating roadkill. They are hunters, but they like to scavenge for food as well. Though they have more than enough skill to hunt prey up to the size of a small kangaroo, they are not always willing to do the work, and will eat the remains of dead animals whenever they get the chance. If there is no free meal around, however, they will hunt animals like sheep, reptiles, birds, and their absolute favourite, wombats. They used to hunt thylacine cubs before the thylacine went extinct, and they sometimes hunt wild cats and dogs. In the zoo, Tasmanian devils do not hunt, and are given small pieces of meat to eat, which they must find by smell, as their eyesight is not that good.
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Most species are the way they are because of adaptations in the wild, and the Tasmanian devil is no exception. It has extremely strong jaws to help it crush through bones, as easily as a human would eat a carrot. It also has long claws that help when hunting subterranean animals. These two adaptations help when hunting, because they are able to use these to hunt animals like the wombat with ease. They have 5 long toes on each devil's forefeet that are similar to human hands, which allow the devil to hold food. They also have long whiskers to help detect objects around them in the dark, so they can hunt during the night time, and they can store fat in their tails so they do not have to eat often. The devils also have many behavioural adaptations such as its method of food selection. Whenever possible, the Tasmanian devil will scavenge for roadkill and other dead animals, but otherwise will resort to hunting for themselves. However, in the zoos, they have no opportunities to hunt for themselves, because the keepers feed them with meat that they have prepared themselves. This means that devils that have been in zoos for a long time, and those that have been born in zoos, will lose some of their hunting ability.

Human Activity on the Tasmanian Devil

The Tasmanian Devil is an endangered species currently, but not because of human activity. However, humans used to hunt the Tasmanian Devil because they believed that it was killing their livestock, when in fact, the devils were innocent. When they realised this, the devils were made protected animals under Australian law, and their population slowly began to rise. In the 1990's, the devils began to suffer devil facial tumour disease and the population, which was still damaged from the hunting, continued to decline. The Tasmanian Devil was named endangered in 2008, and humans are trying everything they can to save them. The Save The Tasmanian Devil Program is working on quarantining sick devils and on a cure for the disease. They are also working on an immunisation, and when they are done, they will set up a population of healthy devils that will be released into the wild. This, we hope, will save the species and preserve it for future generations.


Wikipedia, 10/11/15, Tasmanian Devil, Wikipedia, 14/11/15, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tasmanian_devil

Save the Tasmanian Devil, Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, 14/11/15, http://www.tassiedevil.com.au/tasdevil.nsf

6/11/15, Tasmanian Devil, Parks and Wildlife Service, 14/11/15, http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/?base=387