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Posted Sun Jan 25 2009: from Associated Press:
Tasmanian devils threatened by contagious cancer
CANBERRA, Australia-- Tasmania is trying to save the devil. The Tasmanian devil, a ferocious, snarling fox-sized marsupial, is in danger of going extinct because of a contagious facial cancer. In the meantime, its biggest rival -- the European fox -- is thriving, and may become so dominant that the devil never comes back. Scientists now want to build a double fence standing more than three feet tall to stop the cancer's relentless spread toward the rugged northwest of the island, home to disease-free devils and World Heritage-listed rain forest. Devils spread the cancer when they bite each other during mating or squabble over food. But for any chance of success, the fences would have to be completed within two years, said Hamish McCallum, the senior scientist in the devil rescue program. He predicts the devil will go extinct in the wild within 20 years.
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