The Tasmanian devil
), also referred to simply as 'the devil', is a carnivorous marsupial
now found in the wild only in the Australian island state
. The Tasmanian devil is the only extant member of the genus Sarcophilus
. The size of a small dog
, but stocky and muscular, the Tasmanian devil is now the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world (after the recent extinction
of the thylacine
in 1936). It is characterised by its black fur, offensive odour when stressed, extremely loud and disturbing screech, and viciousness when feeding. It is known to both hunt prey and scavenge carrion
and although it is usually solitary, it sometimes eats with other devils.
The Tasmanian devil became extirpated on the Australian mainland about 400 years before European settlement in 1788. Because they were seen as a threat to livestock in Tasmania, devils were hunted until 1941, when they became officially protected. Since the late 1990s devil facial tumour disease has reduced the devil population significantly and now threatens the survival of the species, which may soon be listed as endangered. Programs are currently being undertaken by the Tasmanian government to reduce the impact of the disease.