[email protected] is the Tasmanian Devil sanctuary at Cradle Mountain – one of a series across Tasmania working hard to save this incredible beastie from annihilation via Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD).
I signed up for the night feeding session at 5.30pm (costs $27.50) and went along for a look expecting a bit of information and obviously to see some devils. I know there are Tasmanian Devils at various mainland Australia zoos but because they are nocturnal scavengers I’ve not seen one awake in a zoo enclosure.
After a welcome the evening starts off with this weird American-voiced-over film about Tasmania and Tasmanian Devils – great scenery but it gave a strong impression of aggressively unpleasant creatures.
Then the keeper started talking, and boy could he talk. This is someone highly passionate and highly knowledgeable about the Tasmanian Devil. It was VERY scientific and half of it went straight over my unscientific head but I didn’t mind because it was so surprisingly and refreshingly not ‘dumbed down’.
The effect of DFTD has been devastating, with rapid and tragic ‘progress’ of the situation since its discovery in 1996. Some areas of Tasmania are now reporting 98% loss of Tasmanian Devil population. They are staring down the barrel of extinction in the wild.
It was fascinating to hear about the causes of DFTD and how they are trying to combat it by diversifying the genetic pool of devils across Tasmania. An important lesson on the impact of altering a carefully balanced eco-system or food chain.
Then he brought in a young Tasmanian Devil and we all got to stroke it – we were all very quiet so as not to alarm it and it just cuddled into the keepers arms.
Tasmanian Devil table manners have to be seen to be believed and the four devils in the enclosure absolutely destroyed the piece of kangaroo served up after chasing the keeper for it. But the overall impression was to dispel the negative impression created by the initial film.
There are also a number of beautiful Quolls on display and we also got to watch them eating. Two young males put on an exuberant ‘mating challenge’ display.
This is a great little centre, doing important work and well worth a visit when at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania.
By Natasha von Geldern