Tag Archives: zoos

Z- Tasmanian Devil Unzoo

Welcome to Z – the last day of the  A-Z April Challenge.

Throughout  the challenge, I’d been planning to visit Zeehan as our last stop. Located on the North-West Coast, Zeehan was an obvious choice and posed a great alternative to the inevitable “Zoo” . Moreover, Geoff’s Great Uncle, Robert Ralph French, was a teacher in Zeehan before being Killed in Action in France during WWI. However, although we have that personal connection with the town, we’ve never been there, which makes writing about it a tad difficult, though not impossible.

Moreover, unless we went to the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo, we haven’t had a chance to meet the infamous Tasmanian Devil or find out about it’s battle to survive. It is now listed as an endangered species and much work is being done to conserve it.

“THERE are three hateful things in the world, two that make the blood run cold, and one that makes it boil; the hiss of a snake, the snarl of a Tasmanian devil, and the smile of a banker.”

– Eimar O’Duffy in “Asses in Clover.”

As we’ve continued through our A-Z Alphabetical Tour of Tasmania, there’s been what we’ve seen, but also what we haven’t seen. For better or worse, the haven’t seens include the Tasmanian Devil. Although my son swears he heard one howling in the night, and even glimpsed it through the bathroom window, so far we haven’t seen or even heard one at all.

Hobart to Tasmanian Devil Unzoo

So, instead of heading West to Zeehan, we’re now heading South to the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo in Taranna, which is helping to conserve this endangered species.

“UNZOO – a place where the public learns about wild animals, plants and ecosystems through interaction with and immersion in natural habitats.”

– John C Coe and Ray Mendez, 2005, The Unzoo Alternative

Since 1996, Tasmania Devils have been blighted by an infectious cancer known as Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD).  Since then, the population has declined by more than 60%.6 Transmission can occur by biting, feeding on the same material, aggressive mating, and other social interactions.  DFTD tumors mostly form on the face and/or in the oral cavity.  The cancer can also metastasize to other areas of the body.  Nearly 100% of infected devils die within 6 months of the onset of clinical signs.7 Death results from an inability to feed, secondary infection, or symptoms associated with metastases. Sadly, as a result, what was once the largest surviving population of marsupial carnivores is now threatened with extinction.

The Tasmanian Devil Unzoo is taking a proactive part in helping to save the Tasmanian Devil:

“Tasmanian Devil Unzoo has a long history of supporting efforts to save the Tasmanian devil, and is a partner in the official Tasmanian Devil Conservation Project. This critical project aims to save Tasmanian devils on the Tasman Peninsula by preventing the spread of the DFTD to the region.

As part of this effort, Tasmanian Devil Unzoo is breeding healthy devils for future wild release on the Peninsula. We also maintain a special devil-proof barrier fence at Dunalley, which has been designed to prevent the spread of DFTD into the disease-free Tasman Peninsula region. In addition, through our Devil Tracker Adventure project, we constantly monitor our local wild devils and collect important information on the local devil population through infra-red cameras and data recording.[1]

Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned time and time again, we ran out of time in Tasmania and we didn’t make it to the Tasmanian Unzoo when we were down there in January. However, we live right near the Australian Reptile Park on the NSW Central Coast. So, we can see Tasmanian Devils and other Australian wildlife there. You probably don’t have this luxury.

Before I turn you over to the Unzoo, I thought I’d better introduce you to the Tasmanian Devil first.

That said, I’m anything but a Tasmanian devil expert and I’m largely going on reputation. Obviously, I’ve never snuggled up to a Tassie Devil to get to know them personally, let alone had the opportunity to run through the Proust Character questionnaire with one.

Devils Teeth

However, as you may recall, I do have my in-house Tasmanian (my husband Geoff). Geoff has told of the Devil’s incredible ability to polish off an entire cow carcass in two weeks including the skin. Out on his cousin’s farm, they’d dump a dead cow out in the bush and two weeks later, the big knee bone was all that remained. It takes a powerful set of jaws, and a cast iron stomach to pull that off, making the Tassie Devil an animal to be feared, but also given a kind of respect.

Tasmanian Devil etching

In search for more stories, I read through some of the old newspapers online and found out about some devils who were sent to the London Zoo. These accounts provide some good insights into public perceptions in the past:

According to the “Overseas Mail” of 2nd December, the authorities at the London Zoo…are extending a warm welcome to live Tasmanian devils. These animals belong to the marsupial group of animals, and may be described as the black sheep of the respected kangaroo family. In appearance the devil; is quite as black as its namesake is painted, and is about the size of a badger. The broad, strong head is armed with tremendous jaws and teeth, and its sole touch of colour is a suggestion of pink about, the muzzle and ears, and a white V-shaped marking on the chest. It is absolutely untamable, kindness seems as much wasted on it, as on a bursting shrapnel shell. Its ferocity is only amenable to buckshot or strychnine. It will fight a man, a sheep, a dog or its own relations. Kill it and it dies snarling defiance. Give it food, and it bites the hand that feeds it with every sign of satisfaction. The mother produces three or four little devils at a time… Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), Thursday 4 January 1912, page 3

…..

A LONDON IMPRESSION: The Tasmanian Devil

Four Tasmanian Devils, fiends in animal shape whose life is one unceasing anger against everybody and everything, have arrived at the London Zoo. No matter what you do for or against a Tasmanian Devil he remains furious. In his native Australia he is the terror of the sheep-farmer. Woe betide any farmer who relaxes watch, for the Devils have an uncanny knack of knowing just when it is safe to appear among the flock and tear out the throats of their helpless prey. It is some years ago since the Zoo entertained a Devil, and anybody with a taste for excitement should visit the newcomers. A new cage, with “unbite-able” steel bars, has been prepared, and the four hideous strangers are now boiling with fury in it from morning to night. The Tasmanian Devil is jet-black, with massive jaws which will tear ordinary wire mesh into shreds in a twinkling. In his wild state he fights his fellow Devils on the slightest provocation and the victor often devours the vanquished. Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), Saturday 26 December 1931, page 12

Yet, despite such horrific reports, I also found a report of three Tasmanian Devils being sent to Hollywood to appear on screen:

ASPIRANTS FOR FILM FAME: Tasmanian Devils For Hollywood

Zoologically, the Tasmanian Devil-latest candidate for Hollywood film honors— is an “Interesting little animal.” Destined for a film career, three of them, on Friday next, will leave Hobart on the first stage of a 7000 miles trip to Hollywood. They have been selected as supporting artists for Rosemary Lane in a coming talking picture. On the way they will be housed for a few weeks at Taronga Park. Latent talent, no doubt, has caught the eagle eye of Hollywood’s talent scouts. If so, it is a case of history repeating itself, for, like the prophet, the Tasmanian Devil has found little honour in its own country. The secretary of the Taronga Park Trust (Mr. Brown) said to-day that there were no Tasmanian Devils in the Sydney Zoo. “They are not zoological rarities by any means,” he said, “but for display purposes we have found that the public generally is not very interested in them,”  Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Thursday 11 May 1939, page 9

Taz

Taz.

So, while the Tassie Devil might not make the ideal dinner party guest, it is an essential part of biodiversity in Tasmania and needs to be saved.

At this point, I’m going to take you over to the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo’s  website where you can go on a self-guided tour.

I hope you enjoy it, but also gain a heightened sense of the need for the conservation of all species of animals and plants to ensure biological diversity in the future. It is much better to look after what we’ve got, than try to bring it back from the dead down the track (the Tasmanian Tiger being the case in point).

Once you’re finished there, we’re heading back to Devonport to catch the night ferry to Melbourne, leaving Tasmania behind.

By the way, don’t forget to stock up on goodies before you leave. I know we are…including a dozen Cornish pasties from Scottsdale, Lavender Cheese from Ashgrove Farm, chocolate from the House D’Anvers and Hard Ginger Beer from Spreyton’s Cider.

Indeed, I’d stuff all of Tassie in my suitcase if I could!

Carpe diem…seize our last day!

xx Rowena

The Details for The Tasmanian Devil Unzoo

5990 Arthur Highway. Taranna Tasmania 7180 Australia

T: Within Australia   1800 641 641

T: International      +61 1800 641 641

E: taswild@iinet.net.au

W:        http://www.tasmaniandevilunzoo.com.au

References

[1] https://tasmaniandevilunzoo.com.au/save-the-devil/

https://www.cancerquest.org/cancer-biology/cancer-wild-animals?gclid=CMbNysLXydMCFRwKKgodZVQB8A#devil

Featured image -The Tasmanian Devil Unzoo

National Tree Planting Day: Meeting Taronga’s Zoomobile!

When you think of Australian animals, koalas and kangaroos have hogged much of the limelight. However, today we met a few unsung characters when Taronga Zoo’s Zoomobile came to town.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not exactly sure what we were at this morning. I was just tagging along with my daughter and her cub scout pack. There was tree planting, running through the bush with her mates and meeting a real cast of characters from Sydney’s Taronga Park Zoo. I was about to say cute and furry characters but if you’ve ever seen an echidna, you’d realise they’re more along the lines of rough and spiky. Indeed, I was told their spines can easily puncture through car tyres, although I’ve patted a few and survived unscathed. Also, I wouldn’t exactly describe the Eastern Shingleback Lizard as “cute” either. That is, unless you go with the definition: “ugly but interesting!

Our daughter pats a Shingleback Lizard

Our daughter pats a Shingleback Lizard

Mind you, in terms of cuteness, it is hard to overlook this baby Ringtail Possum.

How cute: Baby Ringtail Possum.

How cute: Baby Ringtail Possum.

Personally, the star of the show had to be a somewhat obscure marsupial called the Yellow-bellied Glider, which arrived in a rather intriguing wooden contraption that reminded me a bit of a miniature phone booth. I didn’t hear this critter make a noise and was just admiring its photogenic qualities and the softness of its fur when an almighty din erupted from the DVD player. Can’t even begin to describe what its call sounds like but you can listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnzGlC0Pmfo

Feeding the Yellow-bellied Glider.

Feeding the Yellow-bellied Glider.

I was also stoked to meet their echidna. You might recall that we chanced across a few echnidas on a bushwalk locally which I wrote about here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/bushwalking-through-the-lens-australian-style/

Talk about a sticky beak!

Talk about a sticky beak!

Even though we’ve seen echidnas in the wild, I was still stoked to see theirs, who was also a lot more sociable and willing to show off a little and give us a few more insights into the life and times of the echidna. Apparently, it locates it’s food using the tip of its snout or nose, which is sensitive to electrical signals from an insect body and this is how it searches and “sniffs” out ant and termite nests. Echidnas then normally tear into the mound or nest with its sharp front claws while its snout exposes the ants or termites. These are then caught with its fast-flicking, sticky tongue. Because they have no teeth the Echidna crushes the insects between horny pads in its mouth.

That all sounds like a lot of hard work just to get a feed…especially when you could just pop into the supermarket!

This lizard looks quite accustomed to the camera!

This lizard looks quite accustomed to the camera!

In addition to the cute and furies, the sharp and spikies, there were the reptiles…always popular at any animal show. I must admit I was quite relieved not to run into any of these on our recent bushwalk…especially any SNAKES!!

Miss intrigued by the Children's Python.

Miss intrigued by the Children’s Python.

The Zoomobile wimped out a bit today on the snake front by only bringing what’s known as a Children’s Python. After all, it’s not a good idea to introduce Australia’s deadliest snakes to a whole lot of kids. “Mummy, look at me,” as Little Johnny’s clutching an Eastern Brown, Australia’s deadliest snake. That wouldn’t go down well on Facebook at all!

Yes, Australia is full of deadly snakes and if you’d like to read more about them with going anywhere near them, click here: http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/science-environment/2012/07/australias-10-most-dangerous-snakes/

In contrast to the Eastern Brown, the Children’s Python is like the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny all rolled into one user-friendly snake.

Actually, maybe not.

I just did a bit of quick Google research and found out that the Children’s Python isn’t some docile relative of a jelly snake, which makes a suitable pet for kids. Rather, it is named after the scientist John George Children, who first described them. Humph! That’s the last time I go playing with one of those things. Yes, they actually do bite but are non-venomous.

Yes, I’ll stick to eating jelly snakes!

Back on the cute list, we also spotted this frog which seemed to change colour to match its habitat. Clever!

Well, returning after school drop off this morning, I have finally found out what yesterday was all about.

It was the 26th July and National Tree Planting Day and we were planting trees to protect the long term habitat of the Yellow-Bellied Glider, which actually lives locally at Kincumber. This is a joint project between Gosford City Council and Taronga Zoo. One thing I did pick up was the these gliders live in tree hollows, which are formed when the branches drop off and the wood rots away to form the hollow. It takes at least 120 years for a tree to be mature enough for these tree hollows to form so we really need to protect our older trees as well as planting new ones for the future. Here is a link to more information about the project: https://taronga.org.au/education/project-habitat/kincumber-yellow-bellied-glider

Meanwhile, as the cubs were planting trees and enjoying the Zoomobile, our son was away on camp with the Scouts. We managed to enjoy a snapshot of the bush when we picked him up. I particularly loved the pink Boronia flowers. They have a beautiful fragrance and I used to pick them and make potions out of them when I was a kid.

Beautiful Boronia Flowers.

Beautiful Boronia Flowers.

Anyway, just thought I’d share this impressive shot of him carrying his pack. I don’t think it was an heavy as it looks or gravity would have done its job.

Glad I'm not carrying that pack.

Glad I’m not carrying that pack.

Our boy Scout is rapidly growing up!

Our boy Scout is rapidly growing up!

It’s been very encouraging working on this post and realising the limitations of my knowledge and pushing those boundaries out. Of course, we never stop learning and most of our greatest lessons take place out of the classroom.

xx Rowena

The End of a Great Weekend.

The End of a Great Weekend.

The Zoo With a View

Ouch! While I might not have ranked Sydney’s Taronga Zoo as the best in the world, I definitely dispute Trip Advisor’s list of the World Top 25 Zoos..Taronga Zoo doesn’t even rate a mention. Adding salt to the wound, Melbourne Zoo came in at number 12. Tell me, who’s ever heard of Melbourne Zoo? Indeed, who has even heard of Melbourne? I’ve heard of a place somewhere south of the border but we don’t fraternise with Victorians.

The Elephant Enclosure, Taronga Zoo.

The Elephant Enclosure, Taronga Zoo.

Sydney is Sydney.

When it comes to zoos with a view, Taronga Zoo’s view over Sydney Harbour is pretty hard to beat..especially as the sun sprinkles all her magic sparkles over the water on a perfect day.

Happy Birthday, Mister. He will always be our Superman!

Happy Birthday, Mister. He will always be our Superman! This photo was taken at his party back home.

Anyway, here to set the record straight, come and join me on yet another magical, mystical tour in my great time machine. Today, we’re switching the clock back to the 8th March, 2009 when our family went to Taronga Zoo to celebrate our son’s 5th birthday. Turning 5, in case you’ve forgotten, is an incredible achievement for a little kid…almost as good as turning 18 and becoming “legal”. At that’s when you’re allowed to drink in Australia.

Miss admires the Horological Clock, Taronga Zoo, Sydney.

Miss admires the Floral Clock, Taronga Zoo, Sydney.

Anyway, our visit to Taronga Zoo was momentous for another reason. It was a huge hurdle for me to visit the zoo with my disability and health issues. You see, Taronga Zoo is perched on the edge of a very steep hill on Sydney Harbour. This means that you’re not just walking around a lot but  there are also some pretty steep inclines. That said, you could always catch the cable car from the bottom back up to the top and perhaps that’s what we did. I just remember what a hurdle it was in my head to even get to the zoo let alone get through the day.

Yet, we did it.

If you are visiting Taronga Zoo from overseas, you would naturally be more drawn to the Australian animals. However, as Australians, we were more interested in the more exotic animals. Here is a photographic tour of our day at the zoo. It didn’t include one pto with a marsupial..sorry!

They say the best things come in little packages.

They say the best things come in little packages.

Seal Show, Taronga Zoo.

Seal Show, Taronga Zoo.

Here's Big Ears.

Here’s Big Ears.

When I grow up, I'm going to be as tall as a giraffe...

When I grow up, I’m going to be as tall as a giraffe…

Mister with an “elephant”.

This has been an incredible journey revisiting my son’s 5th birthday and our trip to the zoo. He has always been such a character and to be able to see and almost touch those tiny fingers and bask in his smile has been absolutely wonderful. You might notice that our daughter has her arm in a cast. She had a nasty encounter with a broken bowl, which severed her tendon and she was off to Westmead Children’s Hospital for surgery and 6 weeks in the plaster. The surgeon told us he’d done his job and it was now up to us to keep the royal finger safe…not an easy task with a 3 year old with a rambunctious older brother!!

For those of you who are interested in gardening, here is further information about Taronga Zoo’s Floral Clock, which was donated to Taronga by the late Sir Arthur Rickard, KBE, of Sydney. The clock was officially started on 19th December 1928.https://taronga.org.au/animals-conservation/environment/zoo-plants/floral-clock

Just in case you’re now inspired to make a visit, here’s a link to locational information on their web site: https://taronga.org.au/taronga-zoo

Well, this has been the letter Z from the Blogging A-Z April Challenge. But that’s nmot quite all folks. Wait…there’s more!

Have you ever visited Taronga Zoo? What is your favourite zoo? I understand that having our wild animals in zoos is far from ideal but with so many species seriously endangered, these zoos are becoming mjodern Noah’s Arks…just take the example of the Tasmanian Devil.

Best wishes,

xx Rowena