Australia’s Tasmanian devil, the world’s largest surviving marsupial carnivore, will be listed as endangered because of a contagious and deadly cancer.  Said the government: “This disease has led to the decline of about 70 percent of the Tasmanian devil population since it was first reported in 1996.”

The animals were previously listed as vulnerable, and the change in status to endangered will give them greater protection under national environment law.  The government has committed 10 million dollars over five years to a program aimed at saving the devil, including research into the disease and support for captive and wild populations.

Early European settlers named the feisty marsupial the devil for its spine-chilling screeches, dark appearance and reputed bad temper which, along with its steeltrap jaw, made it appear incredibly fierce.

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