Threats to the devil
Tasmanian devils were once considered to be a pest species and were frequently accused of predating on poultry and even sheep. Therefore, in the 1930’s a bounty scheme was introduced in the hopes of eradicating the devil population and as a result their numbers became increasingly small and the species was almost driven to extinction due to constant trapping and poisoning. In 1941, shortly after the extinction of the Tasmanian Tiger in 1936, Tasmanian devils became protected by law and their population numbers began to slowly increase. Unfortunately, however remaining individuals were left with very low genetic diversity.
Current Threats- Devil Facial Tumour Disease
Despite an increase in population numbers since 1941, Tasmanian Devil numbers appear to be in trouble again, this time due to a deadly cancer known as the Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DTFD), which is estimated to have
already affected Tasmanian Devils in over 65% of the entire state. This cancer is unusual because it is contagious, most likely due to the low genetic diversity of devils, and therefore the inability of the cancer to recognise when it
has been transferred from one host to the next.
This cancer was first discovered in 1996 and has resulted in 80-
90% reduction of adults in the state’s high density devil populations and up to a 50% decline in smaller populations. Once a devil has contracted DFTD they usually die within months from starvation, due to the tumour covering their mouth and jaw area preventing them from being able to eat.
To date, it is only the west coast and far north-west that appears yet to be affected by the disease and the DTFD is yet to be found in young devils, below 2 years of age.
As a result of the severity of the DTFD, the conservation status of the Tasmania devils underwent a recent change in 2005 and went from being classified as a common and abundant species to a threatened and endangered species.
Other General Threats
Tasmanian Devils do not have any specific predators and due to their ability to live in a variety of habitats they are not often significantly affected by habitat destruction. However, there are other threats affecting the survival rates of Tasmanian devils, most commonly mortality due to motor vehicles as devils spend a lot of time on roads eating road kill.