ENGLISH TRANSLATION of article in Frankfurter Rundschau 16 Dec 2003:
Der Tasmanische Teufel geht durch die Hölle

The Tasmanian Devil Goes Through Hell
Written by Martin Feldmann, Cockle Creek, Tasmania.

A mysterious epidemic is running rampant among Australia s marsupials / Research program is to help contain the illness.

In their enclosure in the Tasmanian Devils Park in Taranna some hissing devils are squabbling and fighting over chunks of meat thrown to them by Stephen, the attendant. The meal in this wildlife park located not far from Port Arthur, the famous/infamous 19th century penal colony of the British Crown, consists of road kill: Wombats, wallabies and kangaroos run over on the roads. In the wild these nocturnal scavengers scarcely leave the cover of the dense bush, rarely can one observe them.

Those visitors staying overnight in the camping grounds of the national parks can hear the devils scream after nightfall. The sinister disease of these ruffians at first manifests itself with a small wound on the snout. This progresses into a bleeding ulcer. The devils go through hell before they die a miserable death some months later , staff at the Taranna park confirm.

The first cases were reported in Tasmania s south and southeast as early as the mid-1990, however by now the disease occurs in almost all the regions of the island. Official estimates put the number of devils that have fallen victim to this epidemic at the tens of thousands. It is estimated that the disease has decimated the original population of approx. 150 000 animals to half that figure now. Tasmania s Labor government has provided AUD $ 1.8 Mil for a research program to find the source of the devils facial tumours and then to successfully contain the disease; that is at least what environment minister Bryan Green is hoping for. Scientists in a Geelong/VIC institute are expected to provide a result by 2006.

In the eyes of pathologists the trigger for this epidemic could be viruses, similar to those responsible for HIV/Aids and SARS. Tasmanian environmentalists however, like Mike Foley of the Far South Wilderness Center - located in the sparsely populated area between Dover and Cockle Creek in the far southeast do not rule out, that the government-promoted forestry industry could also be responsible for the outbreak of the disease; as outside the national parks natural bush and old-growth forests are being cleared to make way for tree plantations. The fast growing eucalypt species Blue Gum is commonly planted, which is exported to Asia among others and is processed mainly into paper. In order to keep the new plantations free of animals i.e. vermin , so Foley laments, the laying of poison, which ultimately has to end up in the devils organism by way of the food chain, is practiced on a large scale.

The devil should not suffer the fate of the extinct Tasmanian Tiger [SEE PLANET ARK LINK BELOW]: Settlers and sheep graziers have relentlessly hunted this predator with the striped back and tail well into the early 19th century and to extinction. Therefore the government is planning, just in case, to have disease-free devil populations established on offshore islands, which are considered safe.

PLANET ARK: Extinction – the Lesson of the Tasmanian Tiger & The Effects of 1080 Poison on Animals

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