Faulkner said it was hoped the project would create an “insurance population” against the face-tumour disease, which has so far proved untreatable, and help restore the native environment.
“Devils present one of the only natural solutions to the control of fox and the cat, and the fox and cat are responsible for nearly all of out 40 mammal extinctions (in Australia),” he added.
“So there’s more than the devil at stake here.”
Aussie Ark selected the reintroduced devils for their breeding suitability, placing them in the sprawling, fenced area in the hopes of warding off threats to their survival including feral pests, noxious weeds and cars.
“We’ve put young, healthy devils in, we put them in now which gives them the best part of six months to settle, find their territory (and) prepare for breeding” which usually occurs in February, Faulkner said.
Another 40 are set to be released over the next two years into the sanctuary, which is on land bought by Aussie Ark for its habitat suitability, high number of herbivores and location near a national park.
“The land initially was selected because it’s just like a slice of Tasmania,” Faulkner said.
He said he was confident that close monitoring as the Tasmanian devils make the “massive transition” back to the wild – where they have no supplied food, water or shelter for the first time in their lives – would ensure the programme’s early success.
As part of the “ambitious” rewilding scheme, Aussie Ark plans to eventually introduce more of the animals to unfenced areas, where they will contend with a much greater range of new threats including the country’s notorious bushfires.
The Tasmanian devil is one of seven cornerstone species critical to Australia’s ecosystem that Aussie Ark plans to reintroduce to the wild sanctuary in the coming years, along with quolls, bandicoots and rock wallabies.