After 3,000 years, Tasmanian devils return to mainland Australia

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The pitter-patter of Tasmanian devil feet was heard in the wild of mainland Australia for the first time in 3,000 years, after a group of devils was released in Barrington Tops, a protected national park about 120 miles (200 kilometers) north of Sydney.

Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii), the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial, have been long gone from most of the Australian continent, and until now the only remaining wild populations were on the island of Tasmania. Mainland devils were likely outcompeted by dingos, the wild dogs that were introduced to Australia at least 3,500 years ago, and which are now considered a pest species.

However, a decade of dingo eradication has offered Tasmanian devils a second chance. By clearing out dingos and reintroducing devils to Barrington Tops, conservationists hope to not only reestablish thriving wild populations of the iconic marsupials, but to also help protect other native species that are threatened by invasive predators, according to a statement released on Oct. 5 by Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC).

Related: Australia’s struggling marsupial: Photos of the Tasmanian devil

Aussie Ark, a wildlife nonprofit in Australia, has been breeding and studying Tasmanian devils for more than a decade, with the goal of eventually reintroducing devils into the wild once conditions were sustainable for their survival, according to the statement. For the recent release, Aussie Ark partnered with GWC and WildArk, another wildlife conservation nonprofit; they released 11 Tasmanian devils on Sept. 10.

Tasmanian devils are black-furred and stocky with blunt muzzles and short limbs, measuring about 22 to 26 inches (55 to 65 centimeters) long and standing about 12 inches (30 cm) high at the shoulder, according to the Australian Museum. Devils on the island of Tasmania were safe from dingos, which never got a foothold there. But Tasmania’s

Feisty Tasmanian devils roaming Australian mainland again

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Tasmanian devils, the carnivorous marsupials whose feisty, frenzied eating habits won the animals cartoon fame, have returned to mainland Australia for the first time in some 3,000 years.

“Seeing those devils released into a wild landscape — it’s a really emotional moment,” said Liz Gabriel, director of conservation group Aussie Ark, which led the release effort in partnership with other conservation groups.

The 11 most recently released devils began exploring their new home once they were freed from round, white cages at the nearly 1,000-acre Barrington Tops wildlife refuge in New South Wales state, about 190 kilometers (120 miles) north of Sydney.


Tasmanian devils, which were once called Sarcophilus satanicus or “Satanic flesh-lover,” went extinct in mainland Australia before the arrival of Europeans. Scientists believe the introduction of carnivorous dingoes, a surge in the indigenous human population, and a devastating dry season cause by a prolonged El Nino caused the devil to migrate to present-day Tasmania, said University of Tasmania ecologist Menna Jones.

“I think any one of those three factors alone probably wouldn’t have caused extinction — but the three of them together likely caused the devil to become extinct on the mainland,” she said.

Devils have been protected in Australia since 1941, and conservationists have worked to bolster their populations for years, citing their importance as top predators who can suppress invasive species — like foxes and feral cats — and in turn protect smaller species and biodiversity.

One of the biggest blows to conservation efforts came in the 1990s when a communicable cancer called devil facial tumor disease — which passes between devils through their bites while mating and causes large tumors that prevent them from eating — reduced the population from some 140,000 to as few as 20,000.

In response, researchers established

Chris Hemsworth helps reintroduce Tasmanian Devils to Australia for first time in 3,000 years

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Actors Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky worked with wildlife conservation group Aussie Ark to help release a group of Tasmanian devils on Australia’s mainland. 


Aussie Ark

Marvel actor Chris Hemsworth joined conservationists at Aussie Ark for a historic moment in his homeland of Australia, where they reintroduced the Tasmanian devil to the mainland for the first time in an estimated 3,000 years.

Leave it to Thor to help bring back Tasmanian devils to Australia. 

Hemsworth and his wife and actress Elsa Pataky helped release a group of 11 Tasmanian devils into a 1,000-acre wildlife sanctuary at Barrington Tops National Park in New South Wales on Sept. 10, as part of a crucial effort to restore the endangered species to its former habitat. 

“We laid some traps to catch the devils, and then we’re releasing them out into the wild,” Hemsworth said in a YouTube video posted on Monday.

Twenty-six Tasmanian devils will be released this year in total, with 20 more Tasmanian devils planned to be released into the sanctuary in 2021.  Each animal being released has on a radio collar so scientists can check up on them and see how the devils are interacting with other wildlife living at the sanctuary.

Tasmanian devils usually bring to mind the Looney Tunes cartoon character that’s always in a constant state of spinning very fast, while salivating looking for food. Unlike their pop culture depictions, Tasmanian devils are the world’s largest surviving marsupial carnivore that looks more like a small dog than a ravenous monster.

Tasmanian devils usually measured around two feet (60 cm) long and weigh around 18 pounds (eight kg).

For the last ten years, Aussie Ark has

Tasmanian devils reintroduced to mainland Australia after 3,000 years

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The carnivorous marsupials have been released into a 400-hectare (988-acre) wildlife sanctuary north of Sydney, New South Wales, Australian NGO Aussie Ark said in a statement.

“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,” said Tim Faulkner, president of Aussie Ark.

“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.”

Tasmanian devils died out on the mainland after the arrival of dingoes and were restricted to the island of Tasmania. However, their numbers suffered another blow from a contagious form of cancer known as Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD), which has killed around 90% of the population since it was discovered in 1996.

There are now just 25,000 wild devils left in Tasmania, and Aussie Ark has been working to conserve the species for the past 10 years.

The team released the 11 devils on September 10, following an earlier trial involving 15 of the marsupials, which means 26 Tasmanian devils now live in mainland Australia.

There are plans to release 40 more devils.

The devils come from Aussie Ark’s breeding program, which has grown from 44 individuals in 2011 to more than 200 today. The team raises the devils using methods that foster natural behaviors, so they have a better chance of survival when released into the wild.

“Without Aussie Ark’s incredible work and perseverance over all of these years, the recent devil reintroduction would not have been possible and instead of looking forward to the recovery of the species, we would be watching the devil slip into extinction,” said Don Church, president of

Tasmanian devils return to mainland Australia for first time in 3,000 years

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It’s been 3,000 years since the Tasmanian devil’s raspy shriek rang through the forests of mainland Australia. But now, thanks to a dogged reintroduction effort, 26 of these endangered tiny terrors have returned.

No bigger than a lapdog, these marsupials are famous for their ferocity and powerful jaws, which can reduce large carcasses to smithereens in minutes. But in the 1990s, the species was hit with a contagious and deadly mouth cancer, causing its only remaining wild population, on the Australian island state of Tasmania, to drop to just 25,000 animals.

It’s unknown why the species disappeared from Australia millennia ago, but it’s likely due to human actions—when early hunters killed off most of the continent’s megafauna, the devils had nothing left to eat.

As scavengers, devils play a crucial role in maintaining a balanced, healthy ecosystem—which is why scientists have been trying so hard to bring them back.

“We’ve worked for over a decade to get to this point,” says Tim Faulkner, president of AussieArk, a species recovery organization. The group collaborates closely with the nonprofits Global Wildlife Conservation and WildArk to orchestrate the release of captive-raised animals into a thousand-acre fenced area called Barrington Wildlife Sanctuary, just north of Barrington Tops National Park in eastern Australia.

Despite their fearsome reputation, “they’re no threat to humans or agriculture,” he adds.

Even still, reintroducing animals is uncertain business, so the scientists did a soft launch of 15 devils in March of this year. The team used radio-collars to check in on the released devils, as well as put out kangaroo carcasses for food as the animals adjusted to their new home. After all of the devils showed signs of thriving, the scientists felt optimistic enough to release another 11 individuals on September 10—and now they beasts are mostly on their