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.
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.