Tasmanian devils have been born in the wild in Australia's mainland for the first time in 3,000 years, conservation group Aussie Ark has announced.
Seven babies, known as joeys, were born at Barrington Wildlife Sanctuary in New South Wales. Their parents are adult devils that were released into the 400-hectare park less than a year ago.
Aussie Ark rangers are keeping a close eye on the new joeys, which are said to be in "perfect" health.
“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,” Tim Faulkner, president of Aussie Ark, said in a statement.
“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!”
Of the twenty-six adult Tasmanian devils released into the sanctuary in September 2020, seven are reproductive females. Experts believe there could be up to 20 joeys born in the wild this year.
According to the agency, Tasmanian devils disappeared from mainland Australia when dingoes were introduced to their habitat. Dingoes didn't migrate to Tasmania, but a contagious and fatal disease wiped out that population, killing about 90 per cent of them. There are an estimated 25,000 wild devils left in Tasmania.
So far, the introduced population is faring well in Australia's mainland, proving the be adaptable and well-suited to the sanctuary.
Don Church, president of Re:wild, another organization that is working to support the devils, said lessons learned during the project could be applied to other endangered species in an effort to "rewild Australia."
"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,” Church added.
Thumbnail image courtesy: Storyful.