Rewilding Australia is developing a strategy to engage mainland communities to test the concept of returning the devil to parts of its former habitat on mainland Australia. The strategy will refine the experimental design to test the role of the devil in protecting threatened small mammals (those weighing less than 5.5 kilograms) from the effects of cats, dogs and foxes. Our ambition is to trial a release of devils within fenced sanctuaries by 2020 and beyond fenced sanctuaries by 2025.
The Tasmanian devil has been extinct on mainland Australia for around 3000 years, however ecologists have provided evidence to suggest a mainland reintroduction would benefit both the devil as well as mainland ecosystems. By returning the devil to mainland Australia, we might help restore ecosystem function that evolved between devils and other native species on mainland Australia.These missing interactions were vital for healthy functioning ecosystems operating over millennia.
There is also potential that the devil may predate upon, compete with, or cause foxes and feral cats to spatially avoid regions with healthy devil populations. This interaction may reduce the impact of foxes and feral cats on Australia’s critical weight range species (between 35 grams and 5.5 kilograms).
Devils may therefore also help to reduce the reliance on baiting and shooting of our feral predators, reducing the requirement for ecosystem management intervention over time. Reintroducing the devil might also provide an insurance population Tasmanian devils, whose wild population in Tasmania has declined by over 80% in the past 20 years due to a disease epidemic. Wild devils on mainland Australia might allow this insurance population to retain their wild behaviours.
How Devils Change Forests
Did you know that devils evolved on mainland Australia and only disappeared in the last few millennia? Watch our story on how bringing the devil back might help restore our ecosystems.