We all love a happy news story — and it’s even better when it involves animals. When a superhero is involved, well … that’s the best! This week, it was revealed that Chris Hemsworth (aka Thor), together with his actor wife, Elsa Pataky, helped conservationists release 11 Tasmanian devils into a nearly 1000-acre wildlife sanctuary in Australia.
The release is big news. According to the Global Wildlife Conservation, the last time a Tasmanian devil was on mainland Australia was over 3,000 years ago. The group, in partnership with Aussie Ark and Wild Ark, made the release on Sept. 10 after an assisted trial release of 15 Tasmanian devils was a success. This means there are now 26 of these animals roaming Australia.
The Global Wildlife Conservation also shared the news over Twitter at @Global_Wildlife:
The devil is in the details and Australia was missing an important detail: #TasmanianDevils! But after 3,000 yrs, they're back! @AussieArk, with support from @global_wildlife & @WildArk released 26 to mainland Australia. #DevilComeback #RewildAustraliahttps://t.co/JEazircvB8 pic.twitter.com/IhOioZ8voV
— Global Wildlife Conservation (@Global_Wildlife) October 5, 2020
Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate in the world, but efforts are being taken to improve things. Tasmanian devils, specifically, faced issues in the country because they were outcompeted by introduced dingoes.
In their native Tasmania, which is an island state of Australia, Tasmanian devils have been decimated by a disease called Devil Facial Tumor Disease, the only known contagious cancer. It is almost always 100% fatal and has led to what scientists believe is an 80% overall reduction in devil populations.
“Not only is this the reintroduction of one of Australia’s beloved animals, but of an animal that will engineer the entire environment around it, restoring and rebalancing our forest ecology after centuries of devastation from introduced foxes and cats and other invasive predators,” said Tim Faulkner, president of Aussie Ark, an organization dedicated to saving endangered Australian species, in a press release. “Because of this reintroduction and all of the hard work leading up to it, someday we will see Tasmanian devils living throughout the great eastern forests as they did 3,000 years ago.”
The 26 Tasmanian devils now reside in the Barrington Tops section of New South Wales. The wild sanctuary will keep cars out and try to prevent disease, feral pests, poisonous weeds and fire from affecting the animals.
“Without Aussie Ark’s incredible work and perseverance over all of these years, the recent devil reintroduction would not have been possible and instead of looking forward to the recovery of the species, we would be watching the devil slip into extinction,” Don Church, president of Global Wildlife Conservation, said in the statement. “This is an incredible example of how to rewild our planet, bringing back the natural systems to the benefit of all life on Earth.”
Over the next two years, 40 more Tasmanian devils will be released into the sanctuary. They’ll all be closely monitored, using radio collars fitted with transmitters, camera traps, and regular surveys. This will tell Aussie Ark – among other things – if the animals are breeding.
The conservationists hope that by reintroducing the Tasmanian devil as well as six other cornerstone species (eastern quoll, brush-tail rock wallabies, rufous bettong, long-nosed potoroo, parma wallabies, and southern brown bandicoots) to the same sanctuary, the country’s ecosystem will benefit.
If you’d like to donate to the Tasmanian Devil comeback effort, visit this page. Aussie Ark says it plans to post updates on the devils and their progress, so tune in to their social media. We’re so glad they’re back in Oz!