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Tasmanian Devils Haven't Done This in 3K Years

The scrappy marsupials are returning to mainland Australia
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 5, 2020 1:35 PM CDT
Updated Oct 10, 2020 7:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – Welcome back, Tasmanian Devils—it's been 3,000 years. The fierce little creatures are returning to Australia's mainland for the first time in three millennia thanks to the efforts of conservation groups, the BBC reports. As of last month, 26 of them have been released into a large, fenced sanctuary north of Sydney, but more are coming, with the goal of having them procreate when breeding season kicks off in February. Some might later go into unfenced areas. "They're free. They're out there," Tim Faulkner, head of the conservation group Aussie Ark, tells National Geographic. "We've got some basic means of keeping an eye on them. But essentially, now it's over to the devils to do what they do." But questions remain about how exactly the marsupials will affect the ecosystem.

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"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," Faulkner tells CNN, which reports that as an apex predator, the devils will keep destructive populations of feral cats and foxes down. At least that's the plan. The devils can also be at risk, at least in an unfenced environment—after all, they were once eradicated in Australia, perhaps by dingoes or early human hunters. 7 News reports the effort was infused with a dose of celebrity: Aussie actor Chris Hemsworth and wife Elsa Pataky in September helped release 11 of the 26 devils into the wild. (Read more Tasmanian Devil stories.)

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