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Last Updated: Wednesday May 21 2008 11:49 GMT

Tasmanian devils being wiped out

Tasmanian devil

Tasmanian devils are known for their fierce temper and vicious nature, but scientists say they could be wiped out within five years by a deadly disease.

Since the 1990s, tens of thousands of the unusual creatures have been killed by cancerous growths on their faces.

It's thought the tumours are spread by the devils biting each other, and grow so big that they stop them from eating.

Wild devils only live in the Australian state of Tasmania, where officials have now listed them as endangered animals.

The Australian government says it is determined to do all it can to save the meat-eating marsupials from extinction.

They have already moved some healthy groups of devils to other parts of Australia, where there's been no sign of the Devil Facial Tumour Disease to keep them safe.