Chris Hemsworth and his wife Elsa Pataky have helped release them.
If you’re looking for some seriously wholesome news, Tasmanian devils have been reintroduced to mainland Australia, an incredible 3,000 years after they died out there.
Famous for their ferocity and powerful jaws, the carnivorous marsupials were hit with a contagious and deadly mouth cancer in the 90s, causing its only remaining wild population on the Australian island state of Tasmania to drop to just 25,000 animals. It’s unclear why the Tasmanian devils were no longer present in Australia, but researchers have speculated that dingoes may have played a role, the BBC reports.
Now, the carnivorous marsupials have been released into a 400-hectare (988-acre) wildlife sanctuary north of Sydney, New South Wales, Australian NGO Aussie Ark said in a statement, a group who have been working to conserve the species for the past 10 years.
“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.
“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.”
The team, with the help of famed actor Chris Hemsworth and his wife Elsa Pataky, released the 11 devils on September 10, following an earlier (and successful) trial involving 15 of the marsupials, which means 26 Tasmanian devils now live in mainland Australia. Yay.
Within Aussie Ark’s breeding program, which has grown from 44 individuals in 2011 to more than 200 today, the team raises the devils using methods that foster natural behaviors, so they have a better chance of survival when released into the wild.
Aussie Ark is planning two further reintroductions involving 20 devils each, and it will also reintroduce other cornerstone species into the wildlife sanctuary as part of a plan to rewild the environment. The team will track the animals using radio collars, camera traps and regular surveys to find out how they are travelling in the wild.
You can find out more info here.