Tasmanian devils are one of Australia's iconic animals, but they've been missing from most of the continent for millennia. Now, after a 3000-year absence, the Tasmanian devil has been reintroduced to the mainland, CNN reports.
Due to competition from dingoes, Tasmanian devils have been pushed out of every part of Australia except for the island of Tasmania, off the country's southeast coast. The predator has faced another threat in recent decades, as an infectious cancer called devil facial tumor disease decimated the population by 90 percent. Today, there are only 25,000 Tasmanian devils living in the wild.
The Australian NGO Aussie Ark is one of the organizations leading the effort to conserve the species. Since 2011, their breeding program has grown from 44 to 200 devils. Following a trial run of 15 specimens, Aussie Ark released an additional 11 Tasmanian devils into a 988-acre wildlife sanctuary north of Sydney on September 10. The 26 wild animals are the first to live on the mainland in modern history, and the NGO will be tracking their progress using surveys, camera traps, and radio collars.
The reintroduction program isn't just good news for the Tasmanian devil; it could also boost the health of Australia's ecosystems. Invasive species like feral cats and foxes pose a threat to vulnerable populations, and the Tasmanian devil—an apex predator—could help restore balance. If the project is successful, Aussie Ark hopes to add up to 40 more devil specimens to the sanctuary in the near future.