The scientific name ‘Sarcophilus’ (meaning ‘flesh-lover’) is well suited to the Tasmanian Devil as these carnivorous scavengers feed on fresh meat as well as rotting carcasses of wallabies, wombats, lizards, frogs, almost anything they can find. When devils feed on their prey, they consume the entire animal – flesh, fur, bones and all. Although devils have a reputation of being noisy feeders, their screeches and growls are most often a bluff to intimidate other animals in order to prevent fighting.
As a top predator in the Australian environment, the Tasmanian Devil helps maintain small animal populations and assists in disposing of carcasses. By consuming their prey and half-rotten meat in its entirety, they act like natural vacuum cleaners, keeping the bush healthy and reducing maggots.
Devils under threat
The greatest recent threat to this endangered species is a disease called Devil Facial Tumour Disease. This contagious cancer is a fatal disease that spreads easily from devil to devil through biting. Scientists are working hard to find a cure and to save this species from extinction.