He was supposed to be the saviour of his species, but now a Tasmanian devil named Cedric has contracted the deadly facial tumour that has brought the creatures to the brink of extinction.
Scientists struggling to conserve the carnivorous marsupials had pinned their hopes on Cedric, who appeared to be immune to the highly contagious, disfiguring viral disease. For the past two years, he had produced antibodies when injected with dead and live facial tumour cells. But this week Cedric tested positive for DFTD (devil facial tumour disease). They had hoped to start a breeding programme to propagate his mix of genes but his love life has been put on hold.
Greg Woods, at the University of Tasmania, said yesterday that he had removed two small growths on Monday that "almost certainly" indicated he was infected. "It's like a family member having cancer," he said, adding that Cedric is expected to recover fully.
Tasmanian devils could be extinct in the wild within 10 to 20 years.Reuse content