For the first time in 3,000 years, the Tasmanian Devil is back living in the wild on mainland Australia, providing an historic moment for wildlife lovers across the country.
With the help of Hollywood celebrity Chris Hemsworth and his wife Elsa Pataky, local conservation organisation Aussie Ark released 11 devils into a 400-hectare wildlife sanctuary in the Barrington Tops.
“In 100 years, we are going to be looking back at this day as the day that set-in motion the ecological restoration of an entire country,” Aussie Ark President Tim Faulkner said.
“Not only is this the reintroduction of one of Australia’s beloved animals, but of an animal that will engineer the entire environment around it, restoring and rebalancing our forest ecology after centuries of devastation from introduced foxes and cats and other invasive predators.
“Because of this reintroduction and all of the hard work leading up to it, someday we will see Tasmanian Devils living throughout the great eastern forests as they did 3,000 years ago.”
The project is vital to Tasmanian Devil conservation, with only 25,000 left in the Tasmanian wilderness after a contagious cancer decimated around 90% of the population.
WildArk co-founder Mark Hutchinson said the reintroduction was laying the groundwork to “rewild” Australia.
“The re-introduction of devils to mainland Australia is a game-changer for conservation in this country, not only building a robust, genetically healthy population outside of Tasmania, but also paving the way for future introductions that the Aussie Ark team is already mapping out,” he said.
Aussie Ark selected the animals for reintroduction based on those most suitable to breed with one another.
The wild sanctuary is set to prevent the spread of disease, feral pests, noxious weeds, and fire, which was catastrophic earlier this year.
The animals will be monitored through regular surveys, radio collars fitted with transmitters, and camera traps.
Over the next two years, Aussie Ark will introduce more devils to the wild, with plans to do two additional releases of 20 devils each.
Go to Aussie Ark’s website for more information about the sanctuary.