Tasmania Moving Its Devils

As cancer decimates critters, Aussies quarantine them on old prison peninsula
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 28, 2008 1:22 PM CDT
Wildlife Biologist Clare Hawkins checks a Tasmanian devil for cancer.   (AP Photo/Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries and Water)
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(Newser) – The Australian government is stepping in to prevent the Tasmanian Devil from extinction, the Wall Street Journal reports, as the ill-tempered beasties have been dying off thanks to the world’s first contagious cancer, which they transfer by biting each other in the face. So zoologists are now working to quarantine infected devils in a natural prison—the Tasman-Forestier Peninsula.

Britain once held its worst prisoners on the peninsula, reasoning that its slim connection to the mainland would make escape nigh-impossible. It’s that same prison geography that makes it the perfect place for the devils. “It's the one area of Tasmania that's most easily isolated,” said one doctor. And it's working—infection rates are at 8%, compared with up to 80% elsewhere on the island.