Every child has a
favorite cartoon show growing up, mine was Looney
Toons mainly because of “Taz” the Tasmanian devil. He’s known for his
speech which is made up of mostly grunts, growls, and rasps as well as being
able to spin like a vortex and bite through anything. Looking into Tasmanian
devils, finding out that they are endangered brings memories of my childhood
back, it ties me into the problems that these animals are facing. It leaves me
with a soft spot that cannot be tarnished and tampered with. The Tasmanian
devils are the most sizeable living carnivorous mammals who are born
incompletely developed and most of the time carried in pouches of the mothers’.

These animals are about the size of a small dog, they are known for their high
pitched sounds and structured jaw. They are found only on the island of
Tasmania south of Australia. Tasmanian devil facial tumor disease is an illness
that affects them because of the biting and causes the tumor to be on the face
or inside the mouth of affected mammal. The tumor is very big and leaves them
to die. The disease has caused a massive plunge in the population of the devils
and they are now considered endangered. In this essay, I will talk about the
positive and negative impacts that the Tasmanian devil facial tumor disease
(DFTD) has on breeding and how the vaccine reacts to the tumor.

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The Wild Devil
Recovery Project has identified that there was the first ever birth involving a
relocated devil at Stone Head in the state’s north last month. The purpose of
the project is trying to rebuild wild Tasmanian devil populations in areas
where the disease is present, by releasing devils from other areas where they
have been vaccinated to provide an immunity boost. According to biologists,
some of the 130 Tasmanian devils relocated in four sites across Tasmania are
surviving the trans location, settling into the released sites, putting on
weight and most importantly breeding (Robertson et al, 2017). Trans-locations
are specific places that the devils are being moved across where the disease
wouldn’t be transmissible amongst their species. Also, there are at least 44
children in the pouches of the mothers’, they’ve been effective in creating a
larger population and trans located females have been confirmed to be breeding
and more than likely the males too (Robertson et al, 2017). Since, everything
on the project has been flowing pretty neatly we have to take into
consideration that all devils are most likely not meddling into the environment
pretty easily. Along the reading I discovered that, 3 relocated devils were
identified in the same area are with Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD) despite
being vaccinated to boost immunity to the disease. Two of the animals have
tumors on the lips and one has a tumor on roof of the mouth. “We released 33
devils, and all of them produced an immune response, but recently we found
three of them had developed the tumors” said Professor Greg Woods from the Menzies
Institute. Researchers in Australia and others need to look at specifically why
the three vaccinated devils relocated to Stone Head have developed small
tumors. Are the 3 related genetically? Do they have certain bacteria and
viruses embedded within their DNA? Also, how does the vaccine help devils with
bigger tumors on their faces? These are questions they need to diagnose while
conducting further examinations.

Captive breeding of
threatened species for being released into the wild is very critical for
conservation. This strategy here I believe is risking produced captive devils
that are raised with traits poorly suited to the wild. There are long-term
consequences that deal with behavior when breeding. Multiple generations of
captive breeding increased the probability that individual were fatally struck,
a pattern that could be explained by other factors eg. Age, sex, or release
site. (Pemberton et al, 2017) The long term captive breeding programs may
produce animals that are innocent to the risks after being released into the
wild. What they need to do is implement changes in the management policy of the
Tasmanian devils and serve as model of productive combined efforts between
ecological monitoring and conservation strategy. Then again you have to look at
the captive raised animals is a risk for them to be in the wild. Multiple
generations of captive raised animals are fatally hit by vehicles. There is a
theory of non-consumptive Use- Drawbacks where human wildlife conflict can
alter animal behavior, problems with actually trying to help them by releasing
them into the wild can cause stress for the animals. Potential negatives to
feeding wildlife is animals learn that humans can provide a “cheap” and easy
food source. (Prugh et al, 2017). But the bad thing to understand is that how
can we keep human involvement from preventing these devils to becoming road
kill. Providing corridors would be an excellent way to drawback human tampering
with these animals. We don’t know what these devils are thinking but we at the
same time are the road kills intentional? 50 animals whose fates were not
unknown lead to 19 being killed by vehicles which occurred inside 6 weeks that
they were released into the wild. (Pemberton et al, 2017). There needs to be
further research looking at strategies for release planning, and the genetic
and non-genetic changes over time in captivity which will help us better
understand the killing patterns and behavioral patterns in devils and come up
with solutions to improve the success of Tasmanian devils being captive
released.

Tasmanian Devils’
immune system might be the reasons as to why they are still transmitting the
diseases onto each one another. Research shows that a Devil Facial Tumor
Disease (DFTD) vaccine is feasible. An international study involving multiple
institutions over six years has shown than immunotherapy can cure devils of the
deadly devil facial tumor disease (DFTD) (University of Tasmania et al, 2017).

In theory, there might be a possibility that the devils’ tumors can hide from
the immune system, genes that protect them from the cancer. Also, 90000 DNA
spots where smaller number of devils have a different base on the compound
information of the DNA. (University of Tasmania et al 2017). Maybe, the
evolutionary process would avoid the deadly infection. There are two regions in
Tasmania that contains 7 genes, they explain how to build particular proteins.

Proteins build most of the building cells, in terms of digesting food and other
things that it operates in the body. But with the same species of animals
interbreeding with one another how you can control who mates with who
especially if it includes biting on one another. It is like you are setting up
a blind date for these devils and expect some results. But a limiting factor is
which devils can breed with with one another, this can reduce the diversity of
genes in the species. The goal is to have them breeding and biting on each
other with out the effect of growing and transmitting the disease. You have to
look at it in this way, genetic diversity is high when there are many versions
of genes that are present through out members of species. Devils need all the
diversity they can cope with in order to prosper.

These devils need
to flourish because they coexisted with other native mammals on the mainland
recently up to 5000 to 400 years ago (Geary et al, 2015). My opinion on all
this is that these species need insurance populations that are disease free,
simply so that the devil’s survival is ensured. Captive breeding programs have
been the super heroes of Tasmanian devils living in the wild. There is a saying
that says “there is no place like home.” A disease free population will keep
the instincts and behaviors needed for survival and providing another source of
genetic diversity of these species. These two things will be a vital thing for
them when the population comes back up. This can work because, a couple years
ago a population of devils were established on Maria Island on the east coast
of Tasmania. (Geary et al, 2015). Devils can exist and show every indication
that they cope with little harm on living a native wildlife. They may help
balance our ecosystem. Devils are apex predators, they are capable of keeping
grazing animals like rabbits down, allowing the vegetation to do well. Research
suggests that devils can disrupt feral cat behavior, they can help endangered
prey species from predation which is a huge conservation benefit.

 

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