It's a big step in reintroducing the species to the mainland. According to Aussie Ark, this is the first time in more than 3,000 years, Tasmanian devil joeys have been born in the wild on mainland Australia.
Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii)
Conservationists say it is a major achievement in the effort to introduce the marsupials to the mainland again.Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) are the largest carnivorous marsupials in the world and were once discovered across mainland Australia. But the introduction of invasive dingoes (Canis lupus dingo) by first human settlers quickly cleared off the Tasmanian devils there, Live Science previously reported.
As a result of this, Tasmanian devils are now indigenous to Tasmania - an island off the south coast of the mainland. However, even there, the species is presently endangered because of the rapid transmission of devil facial tumor disease (DFTD), which has taken the lives of 90% of their population since 1990, Live Science reported.
To save the species from going extinct, conservation organization Aussie Ark, in association with Re:wild and WildArk, began a rewilding project in 2011 to introduce Tasmanian devils to mainland Australia again. That year, they took 44 Tasmanian devils to a captive breeding site, Devil Ark, in Australia, where over 390 joeys have since been born under the supervision of humans, according to Aussie Ark.
Reintroduction of Tasmanian Devils into the Wild
The team at Devil Ark freed 26 of the captive Tasmanian devils last year, including seven females that are of reproductive age, into a 400 hectares (1,000-acre) sanctuary, making them the first wild Tasmanian devils to inhabit Australia since they were wiped out, Live Science reported previously.
Now, not less than seven joeys have been born among the wild devils, with the true number possibly closer to 20, Aussie Ark said.
President of Aussie Ark, Tim Faulkner said in a statement: "We have been working endlessly for the better part of 10 years to take devils back to the wild of mainland Australia, hoping that they would establish a population that can be sustainable. "Once they were returned back in the wild, it was up to them," he added.
How Tasmanian Devils Reproduce
Tasmanian devils produce their offspring the same way as kangaroos: Offspring are prematurely born and they continue their development inside the pouch of their mothers. Females after just three weeks of pregnancy give birth to between 20 and 30 tiny joeys.
These peanut-size babies that are usually hairless, not much more developed than embryos, then crawl up their mother's fur, toward her pouch, where they cling to the mother's teats and continue to develop for another three months, before growing big enough to leave the pouch. However, the mother possesses four teats in her pouch, so a maximum of four joeys usually survives, Live Science reported.
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