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06/10/2020 4:56 PM AEDT | Updated 06/10/2020 6:25 PM AEDT

Chris Hemsworth And Elsa Pataky Help Tasmanian Devils Return To Australian Mainland After 3,000 years

"The first time in 3,000 years, or thereabouts, that the Tasmanian Devil has roamed mainland forests..."

SYDNEY - The world’s largest surviving marsupial carnivore, the Tasmanian Devil, has been returned to the wild on Australia’s mainland for the first time in 3,000 years.

Actor couple Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky joined conservation groups last month to release 11 of the animals into a wildlife sanctuary in New South Wales, with more releases to follow.

Devils, the size of a small dog and made famous by the fierce Looney Tunes cartoon character known as “Taz”, were listed as endangered on the United Nation’s Red List in 2008.

Aussie Ark/Handout via REUTERS
Chris Hemsworth and wife Elsa Pataky react as they release Tasmanian devils into the wild at Barrington Tops, Australia, September 10, 2020. 
Aussie Ark/Handout via REUTERS
Chris Hemsworth and wife Elsa Pataky (both partially seen) release a Tasmanian devil into the wild with Aussie Ark at Barrington Tops, Australia, September 10, 2020 in this still image from handout video. 

It is the “the first time in 3,000 years, or thereabouts, that the Tasmanian Devil has roamed mainland forests and as an apex predator, it’s critically important,” said Tim Faulkner, president of conservation group Aussie Ark.

Aussie Ark, which has worked on the programme with Global Wildlife Conservation and WildArk, has been breeding young devils and plans to release 20 more next year, and another 20 the following year.

Faulkner said it was a “monumental” moment in rebuilding Australia’s ecosystem.

“This release of devils will be the first of many,” he said. “We’ve bred nearly 400 joeys, and we’re at the point now that we’re able to harvest some to return to the wild.”

Aussie Ark/Handout via REUTERS
A Tasmanian devil joey is bottle fed in Australia in this undated handout image.
Aussie Ark/Handout via REUTERS
A Tasmanian devil reacts in Australia in this undated handout image. Aussie Ark/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.

Hemsworth, best known for playing Thor in Marvel Cinematic Universe films, said: “We’ve laid some traps to catch the devils, and then we’re going to release them out into the wild.”

Tasmanian Devils were wiped out from the mainland after being hunted by dingoes, a pack animal, and have been confined to the island state of Tasmania. But numbers there too have dropped since the 1990s due to a facial tumour disease.

Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate in the world and the re-introduction will help re-balance the ecology that was damaged by the introduction of invasive predators, Faulkner said.

Aussie Ark/Handout via REUTERS
Tasmanian devils are seen in Australia in this undated handout image.
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