Over the last 25 years Tasmanian devils have been facing their own pandemic: devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) is an infectious cancer that has decimated devil populations throughout Tasmania.
Ten years ago, we thought there was a real chance DFTD would drive the devil to extinction. However, recent studies indicate that devils are evolving resilience against this cancer and that the epidemic is slowing down, suggesting that devils could coexist with DFTD.
Unfortunately, in 2014 a new transmissible cancer, devil facial tumour 2 (DFT2), was discovered near Cygnet. Although DFTD and DFT2 look similar and have the same transmission mode, they evolved independently from each other. DFT2 is so far confined to the Channel region, but data from recent surveys suggest that it is spreading rapidly.
The University of Tasmania is looking for land access and suitable properties to conduct its monitoring surveys.
DFT2 poses an additional threat for the already-devastated devil populations. Further, we don’t know if the resilience that devils has evolved in response to DFTD is also effective against DFT2.
The University of Tasmania is increasing monitoring surveys during 2021 to learn more about this new cancer. Surveys are aimed at determining the spread of DFT2, as well as collecting valuable data and biological samples to assess the impact of this new cancer epidemic. This information will be vital for developing long-term devil conservation strategies.
How you can help
The University of Tasmania is looking for land access and suitable properties to conduct its monitoring surveys. Areas of interest include the d’Entrecasteaux Channel and the Huon Valley, from Judbury to Leslie Vale (see below map).
The surveys involve setting custom-made culvert pipe traps for 10 consecutive nights. Traps are checked every morning, and all animals released at the point of capture after appropriate health checks.
If you have a property in Huon Valley or Kingborough and are interested in participating in some monitoring surveys by providing land access, then the university would love to hear from you.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org (link currently being fixed) with your contact details, the area where you live and the size of your property, and they will be in touch.