In Brief

Tasmanian Devils to be Released into Australian "Halfway House"

Tasmanian Devil
A Tasmanian devil seen snarling. The animals are in danger of dying off because of a deadly, transmissible cancer. (Image credit: Tasmanian Devil image via Shutterstock)

Tasmanian devils and an assortment of other endangered species will be released into a "halfway house" in Australia. But it's not because they've got into trouble with drugs or just got out of prison … so far as we know, anyway. The animals are being released into a contained reserve in Australia as a preliminary step to see how they do in the new environment, with the ultimate goal of releasing them into the wild, according to the Guardian.

Four devils will be released, as well as 40 Leadbeater's possums and 40 helmeted honeyeaters. All the animals are endangered. Helmeted honeyeaters, a type of bird, are in particularly bad shape, with only about 60 remaining in the wild.

Tasmanian devils are endangered primarily due to a type of infectious cancer, and their numbers have plummeted in the last 15 years, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. If cancer-free individuals can be successfully reintroduced to Australia, where they once lived before going extinct about 400 years ago, it could improve the species' chances of survival.

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Douglas Main
Douglas Main loves the weird and wonderful world of science, digging into amazing Planet Earth discoveries and wacky animal findings (from marsupials mating themselves to death to zombie worms to tear-drinking butterflies) for Live Science. Follow Doug on Google+.