by E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow Greg Walcher
As appearing in The Daily Sentinel
In the golden age of cartoons, the Tasmanian Devil was a favorite Looney Toons character, a whirling tornado throwing temper tantrums, and eating everything in his path. Both Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck had to cleverly escape his voracious appetite. It has been 54 years since Warner Brothers discontinued the cartoons, yet that character inspired generations to worry about the fate of the real devils, native only to Tasmania and nearby islands.
Real Tasmanian devils are nothing like an adorable cartoon character. The carnivorous marsupial is anything but cute, looking like a small black dog with an oversized head and nasty teeth, is so antisocial it cannot be domesticated, is notoriously ill-tempered, and has a mean case of body odor. They have been decimated by a horrible facial tumor disease that wiped out 80 percent of them. Together with hunting (aborigines collected their teeth for necklaces, and European settlers killed them to protect livestock), the disease nearly sent the species the way of the dodo.