The Tasmanian devil is nobody’s idea of lovable. The combative screeching marsupial was once the most reviled animal in Australia. But now that the creature is on the brink of extinction, Australians have found a well of sympathy for the little devil, the LA Times reports. The devil’s snarling face now graces bars, coffee shops and packaging all around the country, and schoolchildren routinely visit devil sanctuaries to learn about the beast.
They’re like “a little Aussie fighter,” said one geneticist working to save them. “There’s something really adorable about little devils.” The devils are dying off rapidly thanks to a mysterious communicable face cancer—it’s passed from devil to devil when they bite each other in the face, which they do disturbingly often. But wildlife officials, haunted by the 1936 extinction of the Tasmanian tiger, are determined to keep the species going. “No one, politicians to scientists, wants to lose the devil on their watch,” the geneticist says.