The Tasmanian Devil is the largest carnivorous marsupial in Australia
After the worst nights in Tasmania, the first white men to explore the island created a legend around the terrible grunts they could hear piercing through the fog. Only a devil could make those noises: The Tasmanian Devil.
This devil is, in fact, the largest carnivorous marsupial in Australia; but he doesn’t deserve his bad reputation.
In reality, it is a shy, not particularly efficient predator, more likely to scavenge than hunt anything down.
The only truly diabolic thing about it is its smell, a disgusting stink which, without a doubt, helped it earn its name.
When those sailors realised that they had been terrified of nothing more than this innocent creature, they felt they had to invent incredible, exaggerated horror stories, so as not to look foolish.
And, obviously, the more the stories were retold, the bigger the devil became – a ferocious beast with sharp fangs. So, when people came face to face with one, they believed it was just the devil’s infant, whose fearsome mother lay in hiding in the jungle.
This grumpy little thing, so little resembling its name, paid dearly for the boasting tales of his English ‘discoverers’, and he hid deep in the forest. This is the only place it is now possible to find him.
The Tasmanian devils are not very sociable creatures. They prowl around alone, generally in search of carrion, guided by their excellent sense of smell. They rarely kill, but when they do, their usual victims are wombats and wallabies.
Compact and vigorous, their ability to adapt, to eat different foods, explains why they have survived reasonably well, despite the colonisation of their territories, unlike what has happened to their relative the Tasmanian tiger.
They are also reasonably skilled climbers, swimmers, and divers, despite their very unathletic appearance.
However, from time to time, numbers suddenly, and dramatically fall, before again slowly recovering.
The cause of this phenomenon is unknown, but it also appears to occur quite often with other marsupial species.
This little devil, one metre in length, and weighing just eight kilos, nonetheless produces gigantic sperm. The young have a very hard road ahead of them before they reach adulthood, and many of them die early on in their lives.
But at least they are still here, alive, and as grumpy as ever.