Uniquely, the Australian Opal Coin Series portrays nocturnal native animals in slivers of spectacular opal gemstone.
Released this month, the fifth coin in the series portrays a Tasmanian devil – one of Australia’s most iconic marsupials.
The term ‘devil’ is a bit harsh. On the other hand, early European settlers found its dark colouring, cantankerous nature and, above all, bloodcurdling screech, extremely disturbing.
Once found throughout mainland Australia, the devil was probably hunted to local extinction by dingos. In the absence of its primary predator in the island of Tasmania, however, it flourished – at least for a while.
Colonisation brought devils further problems. Suspected of attacking poultry, they were trapped and poisoned for more than a century. Complete extinction seemed a real possibility until in 1941 the Tasmanian devil was protected by law.
Sadly, its tribulations were far from over. Today, Devil Disease, which causes contagious facial tumours, is again threatening the population. There is a now a determined effort to preserve this important creature for the future. [Save The Tasmanian Devil]
World’s largest carnivorous marsupial
The Tasmanian devil is the world’s largest surviving carnivorous marsupial. It has muscular jaws and sharp teeth said to be able to deliver, pound for pound, one of the most powerful bites in the mammalian world.
As scavengers, they eat whatever they can – including birds, snakes and reptiles. Devils are especially rowdy when jockeying for position on the carcass of a sheep or cow, which like all their food, disappears completely – bones, fur and all!
Such poor table manners contributed to the devil’s reputation as a bad tempered brawler, but these days it’s considered one of nation’s most famous species whose care and protection is an important priority.