Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary is more than just a place to meet some local animals – it’s a sanctuary and rehabilitation facility for injured wildlife, as well as an education centre for the public and for future animal handlers who want to care for these beautiful creatures.
The sanctuary started around 30 years ago when a family began to raise and take care of injured and orphaned animals. It turned into a wildlife park where people could pay to see the animals. Bonorong’s turning point was when ownership changed over to the hands of Greg Irons. He changed the focus of the park from a money making venture to a place where animals can be rehabilitated, people can be educated, and whatever else he can achieve in between.
Bonorong became a park where injured animals can recover, where orphaned animals can grow up safely, and where disabled animals can live out the rest of their days. They run a 24 hour rescue service and receive up to 30 calls per day. They offer an internship for animal handling, which has been a great initiative because until recently, there was only one person in Tasmania with experience in seabird rehabilitation.
A recent project that the sanctuary has been working on is establishing an animal hospital. After jumping through the necessary bureaucratic hoops, it’s nearly ready to be built but they’re still relying on donations and visitors to the park to make it happen.
General entry gives you access to all the animals in the park, including the stars of the show – the Tasmanian Devils. Bonorong also offer public and private tours, as well as a feeding frenzy tour and night tour – which would be great because a lot of the animals at the sanctuary are nocturnal.
There are all sorts of unique Aussie animals at Bonorong. we got to meet a 100 year old cockatoo named Fred, who received a birthday letter from Buckingham Palace with their best wishes.
We also got acquainted with one of the success stories of the sanctuary – Fisher the bare-nosed wombat. He was rescued from an untimely death when his mother, who was infected with a parasite that disrupted her balance, had fallen into a dam and could not get out. While she was not able to be saved, Fisher was rescued from her pouch – and look at him today! Bonorong have released 10 wombats back into the wild over the last 6 years.
As well as all the cute kangaroos lounging around the sanctuary, there are also koalas and galahs, bettongs and quolls, emus and echidnas, blue-tongue lizards and snakes. But what we were really there to see were the little devils.
The animal we were anticipating to see the most was the Tasmanian Devil and we are so happy that our first encounter was at the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary.
Tassie Devils are about the size of a small dog and are mainly black with a white strip across their hind legs and chest. Females can grow up to 7kg while males can be up to 10kg, and they live for about 4-5 years in the wild. Their scientific name Sarcophilus harrisii, means Harris’s meat lover, named after the guy who first published a description of the Tassie Devil in 1807.
Because their legs are a bit short and stumpy, they don’t move particularly fast and can only run as fast as a chicken. While they can manage to catch small animals like frogs and lizards, they’re great scavengers and rely on their sharp teeth that can chew through bones. They also have powerful feet and claws, perfect for digging a den where they hang out for the most of the day.
Contrary to their reputation, they are timid and shy. In fact, when rangers check on them in the wild, the Devils freeze or play dead. The name Tasmanian Devil name comes from the settlers, who were mortified by the sounds that came from the forest at night. Back then, they were also named Beelzebub’s pup or “satanic meatlover”.
We got to meet Prince, a Tassie Devil that was born in the park. He’s about 5 years old and he loves treats (aka wallaby morsels). Lucky for him, wallabies are considered a pest in Tasmania so he’s never short on treats!
The population of wallabies has exploded in Tasmania, particularly because their main predator, the thylacine, has been extinct for over 80 years. Also, farmers have inadvertently provided them with an easy supply of food so they never go hungry. To control the population, farmers are encouraged to cull a quota of wallabies, but the other unintended method of control is by road kill. After all, Tasmania is the road kill capital of the world!
Unfortunately, the population of Tasmanian Devils is not booming. There’s a constant uphill battle to ensure that this endangered species does not become extinct. They have battled a fatal facial tumour, but just as the disease was beginning to come under control, a new strain has appeared. This contagious tumour is spread when the Devils bite each other, whether it be playfully or aggressively.
Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Brighton, about 30 minutes north of Hobart.
They’re open every day from 9am to 5pm and an adult ticket is $26 and includes a free wildlife tour and complimentary kangaroo food, so you can easily break the ice with some of the resident macropods.
For more details, check out their website http://bonorong.com.au/