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First Tasmanian Devils born in the wild of Australia mainland in 3,000 years

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CANBERRA, May 26 (Reuters) - Tasmanian Devils have been born in the wild of Australia's mainland for the first time in more than 3,000 years, a conservation group said, with seven newborns raising hopes the endangered animals can sustain a new breeding population.

The world's largest surviving marsupial carnivore, Tasmanian Devils were wiped out on the mainland after being hunted by dingoes, a type of wild dog, and have been confined to the island state of Tasmania ever since.

Numbers there too have dropped since the 1990s due to a facial tumour disease and there are believed to be fewer than 25,000 left in the wild.

A Tasmanian Devil sits in tall grass as a shipment of healthy and genetically diverse devils to the island state of Tasmania are prepared, at the Devil Ark sanctuary in Barrington Tops on Australia's mainland, November 17, 2015. The devils were released in the wild as part of plans to save the carnivorous marsupials from a cancer threatening them with extinction. Picture taken November 17, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Reed/File Photo

"There is so much at stake here. We've done everything we can, but if the Devils don't breed, its all over," Tim Faulkner, president of Aussie Ark conservation group, told Reuters.

Aussie Ark said the seven joeys were in good health and rangers will monitor their growth over the next few weeks.

Aussie Ark released 26 adults into the wild in late 2020, which have now produced the seven new joeys.

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.

Reporting by James Redmayne Editing by Robert Birsel

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