Monday, February 19, 2007

Tasmanian devils face extinction from mutant cancer

A mutant cancer which causes facial tumours on Australia's Tasmanian devil has brought the carnivorous marsupial to the brink of extinction, a leading researcher has said. Local populations of the animal, popularised as Taz by Warner Bros. in its Looney Tunes cartoons, have already been savaged by the mysterious disease which results in malignant facial tumours. Hamish McCallum, professor of wildlife research at the University of Tasmania's school of zoology, said the disease, which usually results in death six months after the appearance of the first lesions, could lead to the extinction of the species within a decade. "I won't say that it's the most likely outcome but I think at this stage there is an unacceptable risk that we may lose all populations on mainland Tasmania," he told AFP Monday. "And I think probably in the next 10 years."