For the first time in around 3000 years, Tassie devils have crossed the Tasman and are roaming the Australian mainland, with a little help from Aussie Ark and Chris Hemsworth.
No they didn’t swim here, they’ve been slowly released into a predator-free sanctuary in Barrington Tops National Park north of Sydney, as part of an effort to reintroduce the species to the mainland.
26 Tassie devils have been released by Aussie Ark, (with the help of Chris Hemsworth and his wife Elsa Pataky) all of them free of the devil facial tumour disease that’s ravaged much of the species since the 1990s and caused the devil to become endangered.
The first group of 15 devils were released on the mainland in March. They’ve been monitored using radio-collars and given kangaroo carcasses to eat while they adjust to their new habitat. On September 10, another 11 devils were released, and now the whole group are more or less being left to thrive and survive by themselves, with just minor monitoring.
If all goes well, there are plans to release a further 40 devils over the next two years.
Exactly when Tassie devils became extinct on the mainland is debated, but between 500-5000 years ago is the estimate. It’s believed the population died off due to over-hunting, a changing climate and the introduction of the dingo.
The exact effect devils may have on the ecosystem isn’t fully known, but it’s hoped they keep feral pests, particularly cats, at bay. Although Tassie devils are both scavengers and predators, they pose no threat to people.
And the devils are in good company! After being declared extinct in NSW 100 years ago, bilbies have recently been reintroduced to a cat and fox free area of Sturt National Park in the state’s north-west. There are only 9000 bilbies left in Australia, but the Wild Deserts project plans to increase the population by 17%.
With more forward steps in animal conservation, we could have a tonne of small marsupials running around the bush, just the way it should.
Photos by Tony Britt-Lewis