For 3,000 years, Tasmanian devils have not been in the wild on mainland Australia.
But thanks to conservation work, and a little support from Aussie Hollywood star Chris Hemsworth, that has now changed.
Last month, Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky’s wife helped release 11 devils into a 400-hectare wildlife sanctuary at Barrington Tops in New South Wales as part of a mainland population enhancement initiative.
“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.”
Since disappearing from mainland Australia thousands of years ago, only about 25,000 devils are left in the wild in Tasmania today.
After being hunted by dingos, they vanished.
Approximately 90% of the wild animal population around Tasmania was also decimated due to an infectious, deadly cancer known as Devil Facial Tumour Disease.
The wild of mainland Australia is now home to twenty six devils.
And in coming years, conservationists hope that number will increase.
An additional 40 devils will be released into the wild in the next two years.
All animals are tracked with frequent surveys, transmitter-fit radio collars and camera traps.
“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 are already mapping out,” WildArk co-founder Mark Hutchinson said.
The wild sanctuary to prevent the spread of disease, feral pests, noxious weeds and fire has been released.