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Rewilding Tasmanian Devil

In an epic homecoming, we have worked with partners to bring the Tasmanian Devil back to mainland Australia for the first time in 3,000 years. The reintroduction of 26 devils in 2020 to an expansive new sanctuary on Barrington Tops in New South Wales represents an historic first step in an epic journey to rewild Australia—, one species at a time.

“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, which has been working with Tasmanian Devils for more than 10 years with the goal of someday returning them to the wild.

The return of these small but mighty ecosystem engineers has big implications. As scavengers they help keep their home free from disease. As top predators, the Devils push back feral cats and foxes, allowing Australia’s native small mammals to recover. These small mammals in turn enrich soils and disperse seeds as they forage, helping forests regenerate. By burying leaf litter, they actually reduce the intensity of wildfires.

Tasmanian devils vanished from mainland Australia in large part because they were outcompeted by introduced dingoes, which hunt in packs. Dingoes never made it to Tasmania, but across the island state a transmissible, painful and fatal disease called Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD)—the only known contagious cancer—decimated up to 90% of the wild population of Tasmanian Devils. Just 25,000 Devils are left in the wild of Tasmania today.

Devil joey at Aussie Ark (Photo by Aussie Ark)

For the last decade, the Aussie Ark team has been building an insurance population of Tasmanian Devils and learning everything they can about the animals, including about their reproductive physiology, behavior, and ecological needs, all leading up to the historic reintroduction.

Re:wild, Aussie Ark and WildArk are working closely with state and federal governments in Australia to expand protected areas for eastern forests of New South Wales. Devils and seven additional endangered species will be reintroduced to restore these magnificent forest ecosystems, and make them less vulnerable and more resilient to future fires.

Tasmanian devil joeys. (Photo by Aussie Ark)

Partners

Wild Facts

  • Despite the name, Tasmanian Devils roamed mainland Australia until around 3,000 years ago, but survived only on the island state of Tasmania.

  • The size of a small dog, the Tasmanian devil became the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world following the extinction of the Thylacine in 1936.

  • Tasmanian Devils in Tasmania have been decimated by the only known contagious cancer, which has killed up to 90% of the wild population.

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Solutions

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the interrelated crises of wildlife extinctions, climate change and pandemics. Re:wild works with local and Indigenous communities, conservation partners, governments and others to solve some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges. Our Tasmanian Devil conservation approaches include any combination of the following solutions:

conservation breeding, translocations and reintroductions

Creating insurance populations to prevent extinction and active management of wildlife populations to help restore them to healthy and self-sustainable numbers across their natural range.

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Ecosystem Restoration

Supporting extensive native habitat restoration, such as reforestation, that assists in the recovery of ecosystems that have been degraded or destroyed, but that can rebound and rewild with a little help.

The Plan

In 2020, 26 devils were reintroduced into an expansive new sanctuary in Barrington Tops. Re:wild, Aussie Ark, and WildArk are working closely with state and federal governments in Australia to expand protected areas for eastern forests of New South Wales.

#approxindividuals

10,000 - 25,000

IUCN Red List Status

Endangered

Trend

Decreasing

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