Tasmanian devils born on Australian mainland for the first time in 3,000 years

Baby Tasmanian devils – seven more have just been discovered on the Australian mainland (Credit: Wild Tasmanian Devils)

Tasmaninan devils have been born on mainland Australia for the first time in more than 3,000 years, conservationists say.

Seven joeys have been born to adults reintroduced into a wild sanctuary at Barrington Tops, north of Sydney, last October.

Tasmanian devils disappeared on the mainland after the introduction of dingoes, who hunt in packs and outcompete the animals for food.

Although dingoes didn’t reach the island state of Tasmania, the population was decimated by disease. Up to 90% of the animals were killed by a contagious form of cancer called devil facial tumour disease.

It’s thought around 25,000 wild devils are living on the island today.

Last year, conservationists released 26 adults into the 400-hectare (1,000 acres) mainland sanctuary, seven of which were breeding females.

It’s thought they will produce 20 more joeys over the next year.

Initial checks show the seven new babies are healthy. The team will continue to monitor the mothers with pouch checks and camera traps over the next few weeks.

The seven babies are just the size of shelled peanuts right now (Aussie Ark/YouTube)

Nonprofit Aussie Ark has been working on the conservation effort for almost a decade in conjunction with Wild Ark and, more recently, Leonardo diCaprio’s Re:wild.

The Hollywood actor announced the launch of the $43 million conservation initiative in mid-May.

Aussie Ark president Tim Faulkner said: ‘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.

‘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!’

Aussie Ark President Tim Faulkner holding a Tasmanian devil at the Barrington Tops Sanctuary, some 320 kilometres north of Sydney. (AFP)

Re:wild president Don Church said the joeys were a ‘tangible sign’ that the reintroduction of Tasmanian devils to Australia’s mainland was working.

He added: ‘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.’

Aussie Ark plans to reintroduce six more key Australian species into the wild sanctuary in the coming years: Eastern quoll, Brush-tail rock wallabies, Rufous bettong, long-nosed potoroo, parma wallabies and southern brown bandicoots.

The joeys were discovered in their mothers pouches at the 988-acre Barrington Wildlife Sanctuary in New South Wales, Australia. (Credits: Aussie Ark/MEGA)

Conservationists hope these will help restore the natural balance of the Australian ecosystem.

WildArk cofounder Mark Hutchinson said: ‘Once again we’ve been amazed by the dedicated work of Aussie Ark to repopulate Australia’s wildlife. This breeding milestone with the Tassie Devil program on the mainland represents such a positive step towards seeing our endangered marsupials flourish.

‘Tim Faulkner and the whole team are an inspiration to us at WildArk and we’re so fortunate to call them partners. Watch this space, more wildlife goodness coming.’

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