eCite Digital Repository

Sins of omission and sins of commission: St Thomas Aquinas and the devil


McCallum, HI and Jones, M, Sins of omission and sins of commission: St Thomas Aquinas and the devil, Australian Zoologist, 35, (2) pp. 1-8. ISSN 0067-2238 (2010) [Refereed Article]

Restricted - Request a copy

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2010 Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales

Official URL:

DOI: doi:10.7882/AZ.2010.019


As the largest surviving marsupial carnivore, the Tasmanian devil is an iconic species. A disfiguring and invariably fatal facial cancer, first reported in 1996, has now spread across most of the range of the devil, leading to population declines of up to 90% and a prognosis of likely extinction in 15-20 years. Transmission experiments have confirmed that the cancer is infectious and genetic evidence shows that it is a transmissible cell line. Potential management strategies are limited, but include establishing insurance populations, disease suppression by removal of infected individuals, selection for resistance and developing a vaccine. None of these strategies is guaranteed to be successful. Some, such as establishing free-ranging populations on offshore islands that currently have no devil population, might possibly impact on other threatened species. We evaluate the range of management options and argue that conservation biologists sometimes prefer "sins of omission", failing to take action, with attendant risks, over "sins of commission", taking actions that might backfire.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Environmental management
Research Field:Conservation and biodiversity
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Terrestrial biodiversity
UTAS Author:McCallum, HI (Professor Hamish McCallum)
UTAS Author:Jones, M (Professor Menna Jones)
ID Code:72646
Year Published:2010
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2011-08-30
Last Modified:2012-11-30
Downloads:4 View Download Statistics

Repository Staff Only: item control page