Tasmanian Devils are one of the most iconic animals in the world, made popular by the cartoon character of the same name.
This species of marsupial has been a long-time favorite of those who grew up watching the character on the TV, but what about their real-life counterparts?
Well, the real Tasmanian Devil is slightly different from the one you’re used to seeing, but the saddest thing about these creatures is that they’re actually an endangered species.
The remaining population is still yet to bounce back.
So, if you’re a fan of the character, and want to learn more about these creatures, especially how many Tasmanian Devils there are left in the world, then keep reading onwards as we give you all the information you want to know and more!
What Is A Tasmanian Devil?
The Tasmanian Devil is a mammal that is famous for its feisty nature, they have brown or black fur which is extremely coarse to the touch,as well as a profile that in some ways makes them look like a bear cub upon initial looks, but really they’re just slightly stocky.
Most Tasmanian Devils will also have a white section of fur on their chest, as well as some lighter patches of fur towards the rear of their body.
Their gait might seem unusual at first, but it’s due to the fact that they actually have longer front legs than they do back legs.
Tasmanian Devils are also the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial, as they can reach a length of about 30 inches, and will typically weigh around 26 pounds.
However, this size can vary dramatically depending on the amount of food they have access to, as well as the habitat it finds themselves living in.
Their feisty nature is also backed up by a bite that is one of the most powerful for any mammal pound for pound, which is thanks to their super muscular jaws, as well as their super sharp teeth.
An Animal Under Threat
Tasmanian Devils have been under threat for hundreds of years now due to various reasons, it all began in the 1800s, where there was a dedicated effort to cull Tasmanian Devils entirely,due to them becoming a pest to farmers.
These efforts were incredibly close to succeeding, but the population was able to bounce back,and the Australian government declared them a protected species in 1941 to help numbers rise even further.
This was good news for the marsupial, however, a horrible disease was discovered in the 1990s that was revealed to have killed large portions of the Tasmanian Devil population.
This disease, called Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD), is a contagious form of cancer that ran riot among the population and caused huge tumors to form on the faces and around the mouths of the mammal, which ultimately made it impossible for the animal to eat.
This then lead to the animal starving to death, which is why the number of Tasmanian Devils dropped so quickly.
Because of this, the number of these beloved animals went from a healthy 140,000 to a concerning 20,000. So now the remaining population is under extreme protection and conservation, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has officially declared the species as endangered.
Since 2003, the Australian government has been making a conscious effort in order to try and save this creature, starting with the launch of the Save The Tasmanian Devil Program, which was an official response as a result of the outbreak of the horrendous DFTD.
This program mainly focused on isolating portions of the population that hadn’t been infected with the disease and working on breeding programs in captivity to help increase numbers.
There has also been extensive scientific research into developing a vaccine for the disease as well.
Things are looking up for this feisty marsupial though, and there is hope for the population yet.
In 2015 it was found by scientists that some of the Tasmanian Devil population is slowly adapting to the disease, and as a result of this,the tumors that had previously afflicted the mammals had slowly regressed over time, which is a promising sign in the fight to ensure the survival of one of Australia’s most iconic creatures.
When you initially consider that a pregnant Tasmanian Devil mother gives birth to anywhere from 20 to 30 young at one time, you’re probably questioning why their numbers are still low enough for them to be considered endangered, well the issue is that the mothers only have 4 nipples, so there isn’t enough room for all of the young to survive, in fact, a very small number of Tasmanian Devils ever make it, which is why conservation is so important.
For the young that do survive, the infants will tend to emerge from the pouches of their mothers (a telltale sign of a marsupial) from the fourth month onwards.
They are then usually weaned by month six, and then left on their own to survive once they reach 8 months of age.
Habitat And Diet
Tasmanian Devils were commonplace throughout the entirety of Australia around 400 years ago, but many scientists believe that the introduction of Asian dogs, more commonly known now as Dingoes, to Australia was the cause of the Tasmanian Devil’s extinction from mainland Australia altogether.
It means that now the only Tasmanian Devils that remain can be found on the island of Tasmania itself.
Whilst they can be found living all over the island, their typical habitat includes the forests and coastal mallee areas.
This habitat is perfect for the Tasmanian Devil, who as a carnivore, predominantly preys on birds, fish, frogs and insects for food.
Although, they are more scavengers than hunters, and it’s not unusual to see them eat carrion communally too.
These marsupials are nocturnal and solitary animals, who tend to reside in small burrows, caves, or even hollowed logs, before then making their way during the night time in order to feed, and when they do eat, there’s nothing left behind, as a Tasmanian Devil is known to eat everything they find.
They’re also known for their aggressive behavior, especially when they feel threatened by a potential predator who wants to eat them or challenged for a mate during mating season.
In response, they let out some incredibly vicious growls and screams which is why when they were initially discovered by the European explorers who made their way through Australia, they became known as Devils, and what inspired the Looney Tunes character Taz to be so aggressive and snarl so often!
To summarise, the numbers of Tasmanian Devils are dwindling, and the drop from 140,000 to 20,000 was incredibly concerning for the species.
But thanks to the protection they now have as a protected species, there is still hope for the species yet, so with any hope, the success of the conservation programs will allow these marsupials to go on!