|Geographical Range||Tasmania, an island state of Australia|
|Habitat||Eucalyptus forests, woodlands, coastal scrubland, and agricultural areas|
|Scientific Name||Sarcophilus harrisii|
What is a Tasmanian Devil?
These animals are the world's largest carnivorous marsupials (pouched animal), and well known for their intense vocalizations—an extremely loud screech. The species is characterized by its stocky and muscular build, black fur, pungent odor and keen sense of smell. Males typically weigh about 25 pounds and females about 18 pounds.
Fiery Name, Shy Personality
While their name makes Tasmanian devils sound scary, they are actually quite shy. The name ‘devil’ may come from the eerie growls they make while searching for food at night. When a group of them feeds together, they screech and scream.
The Tasmanian devil is much more than a cartoon character. The species is a Tasmanian icon that plays an important role as a flagship species for the environment and for all the animals in the area where it naturally exists. They sit at the top of the food chain, keep prey species numbers in check, decrease the spread of disease by cleaning up the remains of dead animals and compete with introduced predators, such as feral cats and the red fox.
Wild populations have dramatically declined since the appearance of devil facial tumor disease. This disease only affects Tasmanian devils and is spread through devils' biting each other in fights. It is one of only four known naturally occurring transmissible cancers. In some areas, more than 80 percent of the free-ranging population has been wiped out. While scientists search for a cure for the disease, zoos are cooperating to raise a healthy, cancer-free assurance population.
Saving the Devils
Selected as one of only six U.S. zoos to care for Tasmanian devils, the Saint Louis Zoo is participating in the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program an Australian government initiative. As part of its commitment to this species, the Zoo provides funds to Australia’s Zoo Aquarium Association Wildlife Conservation Fund supporting Tasmanian devil population monitoring and management. Tasmanian devil populations in the wild have been decimated since the immergence of devil facial tumor disease in 1996.