Wildlife officials trying to preserve Tasmanian devils have announced a long-awaited milestone: Seven have given birth on mainland Australia for the first time in about 3,000 years, reports the BBC. The babes have been found in their mothers' pouches in a sanctuary set up in 2020. There, the devils are protected from natural predators such as dingoes, which are thought to be primarily responsible for wiping out the marsupials thousands of years ago from the mainland. The devils had thrived for years on the Australian island of Tasmania—the only place they exist in the wild—but the population there has been decimated by a mysterious facial cancer, per the Washington Post.
“It was very moving,” Tim Faulkner of the conservation group Aussie Ark tells the New York Times, referring to the discovery of the babies. It's a crucial first step toward reintroducing the devil population, though once outside the safety of the 1,000-acre sanctuary, the animals would have to contend with the familiar foe of their ancestors, the dingo, as well as a modern one, automobiles. For now, though, conservationists are focused on this first step of protected breeding. Advocates say the devils could eventually help rein in the population of feral cats and foxes, two non-native animals considered by many to be threats to wildlife and flora. (Read more Tasmanian devil stories.)