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Last Updated: Tuesday February 20 2007 14:34 GMT

Tasmanian devils hit by disease

Tasmanian devil

The Tasmanian devil, one of the most unusual animals in the world, is under threat of being totally wiped out by a dangerous disease.

Over the past 10 years, tens of thousands of the creatures have been killed by growths on their faces.

Scientists reckon the tumours are spread when the devils bite each other, and they quickly grow so big they stop the animals from being able to eat.

Soomething has to be done, or the devils could disappear within 10 years.

There have been 57 outbreaks of Devil Facial Tumour Disease since 1997.

Four healthy groups of the animals have already been taken off the island of Tasmania and put in zoos on the mainland to keep them safe.

Cancer doesn't usually spread from one animal to another, but because the devils are all so closely related, it might be possible for it to do so.

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