Tasmanian Devil with DFTD (Image source:  wikimedia commons)

Tasmanian Devil with DFTD (Image source: wikimedia commons)

Species come and go. This is a fact. The dinosaurs have all perished and someday so shall we. Yet unique organisms are also things we as humans treasure, either due to scientific interest, sentimental reasons, or because we recognize their roles as vital members of ecosystems and that to lose them could cause other creatures – such as ourselves – serious problems. The disappearance of the honeybee (Colony Collapse Disorder) is just one potent example of this. Here are some other recent developments in the struggle to survive for a few endangered species.

Poor Devils

If you haven’t heard, Australia’s iconic marsupial brute, the Tasmanian Devil, is dying off from a rapidly spreading transmissible cancer which results in facial tumors and death within nine weeks of infection. This already endangered animal’s only hope may be intervention by scientists and conservationists via the isolation of uninfected populations, captivity and even culling. Desperate times call for desperate measures to help this largest surviving genus of carnivorous marsupial. A new BBC article looks into recent scientific research regarding the Tasmanian Devil’s plight and the spread of DFTD (devil facial tumour disease).

Countless Cuties Caught by Climate Change


Used under license from Shutterstock.com

The Eastern Himalayas are home to over 350 recently discovered species that may be under threat due to climate change. 244 of these are plants, but the rest are animals, including quite a few cute ones. OK, I know it shouldn’t matter what the creatures look like, but lets face it, we are ourselves a very superficial species and the mawkish masses want to save puppies, dolphins and meerkats, but rarely anything ugly. Among the darling discoveries in the Eastern Himalayas are some very sweet birds (the Asian Babbler), Arunachal macaques (the first new monkey species discovered in over a century) and a flying frog that glides through the jungle. But the cutest of them all has to be the worlds smallest deer, a leaf muntjac, which weighs only 11 kg (24 lbs), stands around 60-80 cm (2-2½ feet) tall and has round, mouse-like ears. A new CNN piece on the Eastern Himalayas has plenty of pictures and even a few words, but leave it to Britain’s Daily Mail to run an article of a rescued muntjac with shots worthy of cuteoverload.com. I dare to you to look at it and not go “aw.”

Death Serves No Porpoise

And who could forget the dolphins? Cute, playful, talkative… so like us! Well, some of us, anyway. I doubt a dolphin would make such awful puns as I’ve done here and I, on the other hand, wouldn’t have the guts to save a surfer from a great white shark. I guess dolphins are just better than me. So I can understand why so many people – among them some surfers – are up in arms about the Japanese slaughter of dolphins. A new exciting documentary called The Cove promises to inspire untold amounts of righteous indignation and hopefully stop the needless killing of dolphins in Japan. I look forward to seeing it upon its release here in the U.K.

In all seriousness – and it is a serious issue – conservation symbolizes and for many crystallizes an increasing awareness and concern for our environment. Humankind is no longer competing with other animals like in the old days, but is perhaps beginning to assume the stewardship of the planet in a (hopefully) compassionate and responsible way. Of course, all species will eventually cease to exist. And this may in fact be part of what drives us to save other animals: a realization we humans too have a limited lifespan on this planet and sooner or later (like the Tazmanian Devils) we will also face extinction.

Additional resources:
BBC article on the leaf deer (muntjac) and its disappearing habitat
Article from grist.com on The Cove and accompanying LA times video review
Save the Tasmanian Devil: tassiedevil.com.au