Tasmanian Devils were seen by the original Australian settlers as a threat to livestock and were hunted until 1941 when they became an officially protected species. Since the late 1990’s the population has been dwindling due to Devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) and in May 2008 Tasmanian Devils were declared to be an endangered species.
This form of cancer causes tumours in and around the mouth which interfere with feeding and eventually cause death by starvation. It is a communicable cancer and is one of only two known cancers in the world that is transmissible (the other being canine transmissible venereal tumour or CTVT which is spread among dogs.)
The kindly Linuxites in Tasmania dedicated the proceeds of this year’s linux.conf.au charity auction to research into this disease and raised some $AUD 40,000.
Linus Torvalds, the great man himself, shaved senior Debian developer Bdale Garbee’s beard as part of the charity auction. He was also struck by the plight of this Aussie icon, which has been popularised in Warner Bros’ cartoons as well as other popular culture.
Consequently, Linus decided to help raise awareness of the Tasmanian Devil’s plight by bringing in Tuz for a kernel cycle.
After all, one of the reasons people create open source software is because they genuinely are motivated by a desire to make the world a better place. The adoption of Tuz shows this desire goes beyond creating software and perhaps one day history will record the Linux community served a part in ensuring the survival of the Tasmanian Devil.
If you’d like to find out more on this disease and how you can help check out the official Save the Tassie Devil site.