After leaving Port Arthur, we travelled only 10 minutes up the road to the Tasmanian Devil Sanctuary for the last part of the day. YouDee travelled with us on our expeditions today, but he was too scared to go into the prison, so he stayed on the bus. But once he got to the Sanctuary and found out that some of his bird relatives were here, he convinced Abby to take him along with her. He felt very safe riding on Abby’s big camera!
The Tassie Sanctuary is a very special place where they take in orphaned or injured animals and care for them or try to rehabilitate them. Tasmania is the only place in the world where the Devils are found, and unfortunately over 1/3 of the island’s population has been wiped out from an idiopathic, fatal facial tumor that is spread by biting from Devil to Devil. Once bitten by an infected Devil, the victim usually dies within 5 months. The disease has no known cure, and the only management plan is to try to isolate a population of healthy Devils and allow them to keep breeding. Like kangaroos and platypusses and wallabies, Devils are marsupials and we learned today that although up to 24-40 embryos can be produced per breeding cycle, the mother Devil only allows 4 imps (that’s what a baby Devil is called – honest!) to live in her pouch. BUT, she’s a great mom to those four and raises them for up to 10 months when they can go out on their own.
Our guide for the day was the head keeper, Dr. Mark Howard, who is incredibly knowledgeable and was very generous with his time with us. The first little guy that Mark introduced us to was a little orphan wallaby. His mom had been killed on the road, and a lady found him and brought him to the sanctuary. He seemed to love Mark and came right over when Mark called him:
Shelby tried to convince me to let her take him home in a doggy airline crate on the plane since he’s an orphan, but somehow I don’t think the Aussie officials or the American TSA guys would think much of this idea. Not to mention Shelby’s mom and dad. Her brother, on the other hand, would probably love it.
Next we went with Mark to feed the kangaroos and wallabies. There must have been 20 roos in the enclosure and they all definitely knew what Mark had in the buckets. Kangaroos were jumping everywhere and it was lots of fun for everyone except Alexis, our city girl. She did NOT look happy, but she stuck it out like the good trooper she is. Lots O’ Roos…
Next, we saw lots of Devils including a set of three brothers (one of which looked like he got the raw end of sibling rivalry), a husband and wife, several young sisters and another sibling group. All of the Devils at the Sanctuary are cancer free and thus, not contagious. The Brothers Grim…..
One of the shy little girls:
Next, Mark directed a Free Flight bird show in which most of the birds were either injured or orphaned before being trained to participate in the show.
I think Kelsey was most happy to see the birds and she volunteered for everything. Here she is, holding a Frog Mouth Owl who was hit by a car and has a damaged wing and is unable to fly.
A peregrin falcon who flew into an electric wire and lost a wing. He was still pretty scary, even with only one wing. He was sitting on Mark’s leather gloved hand, and I used my long 300 mm lens to get this shot. I was not getting any closer! Mark told us that Peregrins fly so fast, they only eat other birds that they snatch out of the air. They’re too fast to catch mice or rodents on the ground, because if they miss the mouse, they’re flying so fast that they would crash into the ground. Abby reports that YouDee asked her to put him inside her backpack during this part of the bird show.
And, one more falcon who had two wings and was flying all over the place. Alexis and Jeff wanted to join YouDee in Abby’s backpack now as this guy was swooping right over their heads!
We had a terrific day, and I’ll close with one more adorable little Tasmanian Devil picture!