Environment

First baby Tasmanian devils born wild in mainland Australia in 3,000 years

First baby Tasmanian devils bo...
Only around 25,000 Tasmanian devils remain in their natural habitat
Only around 25,000 Tasmanian devils remain in their natural habitat
View 3 Images
Only around 25,000 Tasmanian devils remain in their natural habitat
1/3
Only around 25,000 Tasmanian devils remain in their natural habitat
Actors Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky help with the release of the Tasmanian devils
2/3
Actors Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky help with the release of the Tasmanian devils
Tasmanian devil joeys in their mother's pouch
3/3
Tasmanian devil joeys in their mother's pouch
View gallery - 3 images

Last year, more than two dozen Tasmanian devils were released back into the wilds of mainland Australia, a place they haven’t called home in more than 3,000 years. And now, the first new baby devils have been born in this new refuge, cementing hopes for the species.

In 2020, 26 Tasmanian devils were set free in a 1,000-acre (404.6-ha) sanctuary in Barrington Tops, about 200 km (124 miles) north of Sydney. This safe new home is designed to protect them from introduced long-time rivals like cats and foxes, as well as other dangers like fire, cars and disease.

That last point is the most pressing. Devils in their native Tasmania have been devastated in recent years by a deadly form of cancer called Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD) which has reduced their numbers so dramatically that they’re now considered endangered.

To protect the species from extinction, Aussie Ark, Re:wild and WildArk set out to start a new healthy population on mainland Australia, where the devils naturally went extinct over 3,000 years ago.

Tasmanian devil joeys in their mother's pouch
Tasmanian devil joeys in their mother's pouch

And the new population seems to have taken well to their new home. The organizations are reporting the birth of seven new devil joeys, confirmed by checking the pouches of the reproductive females.

“We have been working tirelessly for the better part of 10 years to return devils to the wild of mainland Australia with the hope that they would establish a sustainable population,” says Tim Faulkner, president of Aussie Ark. “Once they were back in the wild, it was up to them, which was nerve wracking. We had been watching them from afar until it was time to step in and confirm the birth of our first wild joeys. And what a moment it was!”

The team says it will conduct follow-up pouch checks over the next few weeks, and will monitor the mothers on camera traps. The births indicate that the program is working well, and the organization estimates that 20 will be born this year.

“The fact that the adults have adapted so quickly is remarkable and the joeys are one of the most tangible signs that the reintroduction of Tasmanian devils is working,” says Don Church, president of Re:wild. “This doesn’t just bode well for this endangered species, but also for the many other endangered species that can be saved if we rewild Australia, the country with the world’s worst extinction rate. Tasmanian devils are ecosystem engineers that can restore and rebalance the wild to the benefit of other native wildlife, to the climate, and to people.”

Another 20 devils are due to be released in the sanctuary in 2021, followed by 20 more in 2022. Longer term, other threatened native species, including wallabies, bettongs, quolls, bandicoots and potoroos, will be introduced to the region to help restore the natural balance.

Source: Re:wild

View gallery - 3 images
8 comments
8 comments
Erg
Absolutely fantastic news. Made my day.
Brian M
Do wonder if there are going to be any unforeseen side effects - Tasmanian devils haven't been there for 3000 years, so can't be called native. There is a real risk of something going horribly wrong here, not that that has ever stopped Australians, with the best of intentions, introducing disastrous non-native species!
paul314
How naturally did they go extinct on the mainland the first time around? Were humans part of the reason?
BlueOak
How is it natural to introduce an animal to a location where it became naturally extinct prior to a time when we can blame human impact on that original extinction?!? Madness.
PaleDale
Its pretty obvious why they went extinct on the main land and yes it was due to humans.... Dingos were introduced by the natives (who happen to be human) 4000 years ago but not in Tasmania.
Kenneth Nemchak
So they're introducing an invasive species?
Humans interfering with nature again.
richard warren
Australia has the worst of all sorts of things - carbon emissions, COVID vaccinations, bushfire management & control. No surprise it also has the worst extinction rate. Hopefully this will help.
I noticed a number of negative comments. For what it's worth, I would point out that devils co-existed with Australia's other wildlife for thousands & thousands of years. Which is a great deal more than Australia's wildlife will ever say about European settlement on this continent
Tord Eriksson
Lovely news! We have slowly, slowly, reintroduced wolves in the southern half of Sweden, by just allowing them to live!