The Tasmanian devil is everything but a cute animal. He definitely doesn’t have ‘the look’ nor does he make any cute sounds – this creature is weird in many ways.
1. All in the name
When you listen to the screeching noises Tasmanian devils make and you watch their ferocious behaviour while they eat, you’ll understand where this devil got his name from. This small, dog-like creature is covered in black fur with some white, and his hind legs are shorter than his front legs.
2. Small body, big ego
Not only is this devil’s head large in comparison to his body, but his ego is also huge. The Tasmanian devil grows up to 79cm and weighs up to 12kg. He intimidates his enemies with his fighting spirit, and a super strong jaw that can bite through metal wire and which he opens wide when threatened. Combine this with the unearthly sounds he makes, and you will run too.
3. Minute babies
The mother gives birth to between 20 and 30, or sometimes even up to 50 babies, who are the size of a rice grain and pink. But because the mother has only four teats to suckle on, only four babies will survive. These babies, called joeys, pups or imps, literally latch onto a teat for the next 100 days and are raised in the mother’s pouch, almost like that of a kangaroo.
4. Everything’s for dinner
Even though the devil is a carnivore, he will also eat fruit and vegetables, and he doesn’t mind whether his food is dead or alive. He will eat carcasses, reptiles, fish and insects, and he eats all of it, including fur and bones. His healthy appetite encourages him to eat 15% of his body weight.
5. Fatty tail
The Tasmanian devil stores fat in his tail, which averages around 244-256mm in length. The devil’s health can be determined by the size of his tail – healthy devils have fat tails, while ill devils have limp and skinny tails.
6. Devil in the dark
This nocturnal animal has a strong sense of smell and hearing. The young devil is able to climb trees and swim. Although he doesn’t run very fast, he can continue at an average of 25km/h for more than an hour – meaning he can eventually outrun most of his prey.
7. Defence force
The devil knows how to protect himself and his food. Although he is not considered territorial, he is a solitary animal who prefers his own company, except during mating season. When threatened he will open his strong jaw to show off his sharp teeth and will make those unearthly sounds.
8. What’s that smell?
To mark his home ground, the devil excretes a foul smell from a gland just under his tail. Some people believe this smell is to ward off unwanted guests, like skunks, but some scientists disagree. Either way, the overpowering smell is strong and spicy.
9. Living on a small island
Today, you can only find this devil naturally in Tasmania, an island south of Australia. There are contradicting theories about where Tasmanian devils used to live, but we know that they use to be on Australia’s mainland, and that they prefer drier to wetter forests.
Tasmanian devils were classified as endangered in 2009. The two main reasons for the decline in their numbers are road mortality and devil facial tumour disease (DFTD). This disease is a contagious cancer, which is transmittable to other Tasmanian devils.