Historic Return of Tasmanian Devils to Mainland Australia in 3000 Years
A team of conservationists has released 26 Tasmanian devils into a national park in eastern New South Wales (NSW), marking the first time the endangered species have returned to mainland Australia in 3,000 years. The world’s largest surviving marsupial carnivore, the Tasmanian devil, has been returned to wild in Australia once more.
The reintroduction of the species onto the island continent was planned by non-profit organization Aussie Ark, which has been breeding the marsupials for a decade in an effort to save the species from extinction. Global Wildlife Conservation, WildArk, and actor couple Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky joined Aussie Ark last month to release 11 of the animals into a wildlife sanctuary in NSW.
The conservation organizations orchestrated the return of captive-raised Tasmanian devils to Australia, into a thousand-acre fenced area of Barrington Wildlife Sanctuary. If animals take well to their new habitat, Aussie Ark aims to release a further 40 devils over the next two years. Conservationists hope to track the reproductive traits and behavior of the devils, which have been fitted with radio collars, in anticipation of the 2021 breeding season.
Tasmanian devils earlier were extinct from mainland Australia due to hunting by Indigenous Australians and dingoes. Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate in the world and the reintroduction will help re-balance the ecology that was damaged by the introduction of invasive predators.
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. 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.
According to Aussie Ark Tim Faulkner, the benefits of reintroducing the species to the wild are three-fold: firstly, this initiative is significant to the survival of Tasmanian devils as a whole; secondly, the animals will control pests, like feral cats and foxes, which in turn will protect other endangered and endemic species like quolls, potoroos, bettongs and bandicoots; and the devils will also keep the environment clean from disease by scavenging dead animals and allowing forests to rejuvenate.
While the marsupials vanished from Australia, a small population of devils were able to survive in Tasmania, an island just over 200 kilometers off the southern coast of mainland Australia, as dingoes were introduced to Australia 4,000 years ago, never reached across the Bass Strait. However, a contagious cancerous tumor has been decimating the devil population in Tasmania for some time.
Wildlife conservationists have been doing more and more wilding processes in order to protect various species from extinction. However, to protect the endangered species from obliviating into extinction, the world communities need to work harder to preserve these species.