Tasmanian Devils are reintroduced into Australia’s mainland

Eleven Tasmanian Devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) from the island state of Tasmania have been reintroduced into the mainland of Australia for the first time in 3,000 years.

The Tasmanian Devil is a marsupial mammal, an animal with a pouch. It once roamed the mainland of Australia and is now listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The Tasmanian Devil lived on the the mainland of Australia for 40,000 years until it died out due to the European introduction of foxes and cats in the 19th century that preyed on many native marsupial mammal species.

The Tasmanian Devil continued to live on the Tasmanian island in southern Australia, but many died over the past 20 years, since 2000, due to the Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD), which is a cancer of the face. It is estimated that there are only 25,000 Tasmanian Devils left in Tasmania.

On 5 October 2020, eleven Tasmanian Devils, along with six other species of small mammals, were released into a large reserve, where they’ll be able to roam free in the wild. The other six species are the Eastern Quoll (Dasyurus viverrinus), Brush-Tailed Rock Wallaby (Petrogale penicillata), Rufous Bettong (Aepyprymnus rufescens), Long-Nosed Potoroo (Potorous tridactylus), Parma Wallaby (Macropus parma) and the Southern Brown Bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus). 

This is the result of Aussie Ark’s 10-year project to preserve the species. Aussie Ark has already raised 390 Tasmanian Devils.

The species were introduced into a 1,000-acre fenced sanctuary where they can be monitored and kept safe and healthy as part of the ecological restoration project.

The organization is planning two more releases of 20 Tasmanian Devils, each in the next two years. This will give researchers time to study them. The hope is that they will breed and preserve the species. This is a good example of rewilding Australia, especially after the loss of many marsupial mammals during the 2019 bush fires. 

The Tasmanian Devil has black fur with irregular white patches on its chest and rump. It has a muscular build with a large head, thick neck, and a medium-sized thick tail. Similar to a hyena, its front legs are slightly longer than its back legs. It has five long toes on its front feet and four toes on its back feet, with long non-retractable claws. It has long whiskers on its face. 

It is the size of a small dog, but it is the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world. It grows to about 65 centimetres (26 inches) long. Its tail is about 25 centimetres (10 inches) long.

It is crepuscular, because it is mainly active at dawn and dusk. Its jaws are very powerful, enabling it to crush bones. It eats small kangaroos, wombats, possums, small mammals, sheep, birds, fish, reptiles, vegetation, and carcasses.

It lives throughout Tasmania in Australia, preferring dry to medium-rainfall forests and coastal woodlands. 

The Tasmanian Devil is general solitary, but it eats with others in a small group of 2-5 individuals. It does not form packs. It lives in caves or dens, or burrows in the ground. 

The female has a backward opening pouch, and is pregnant for about 21 days, before giving birth to about 20 young, called pups, imps, or joeys. Both male and female baby Tasmanian Devils are called joeys. The joeys are pink and without fur when they are born. They gain all of their fur when they are three months old. 

Location: Canberra National Zoo and Aquarium, Australia

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.