Our destination for the afternoon drive was Cradle Mountain National Park and Dove Lake, with a long visit to the Tasmanian Devil sanctuary, Devils@Cradle, where we had a naturalist talk and tour of the sanctuary (and got to pet a live, raised in captivity, Tasmanian devil). Cradle Mountain, at over 1,500 meters (4,921 feet), is the icon of Tasmania’s World Heritage Wilderness and the surrounding landscape is a place of pristine and spectacular natural beauty – jagged peaks, cool temperate rainforest, alpine woodland, button grass moorlands and plateau it is a paradise for animals of the alpine. A range of easy-hard walking tracks of varying distances are available within the National park. An abundance of native wildlife, animals such as Wombats, Wallabies and Possum can be regularly viewed in the Cradle area while for bird lovers the area is home to a large number of endemic bird species. While many people hope or expect to see Tasmanian devils roaming in the wild, this is often not the case. Tasmanian devils, along with both quoll species, are shy nocturnal creatures and the chance of seeing one in the wild is quite remote for most of the year.
The Devils @ Cradle Tasmanian devil sanctuary breeds Tasmania’s three unique threatened carnivorous marsupials; the Spotted-tail and Eastern quoll and focuses primarily on the Tasmanian devil. The facility is located on the edge of the Cradle Mountain National Park World Heritage area and conducts in-situ conservation programs for the Tasmanian devil including an on-site breeding program for insurance of the species. The carnivorous Tasmanian devil is scientifically known as Sarcophilus harrisii. A visit to the sanctuary day or night allows visitors to observe these extraordinary animals up close whilst one of the Devils @ Cradle keepers provide lots of information about them. “Keeper tours” are conducted hourly, while in the evening visitors can observe the amazing night-time antics of the animals being fed.
The “keeper’s” talk was very informative as he provided background on the marsupial and discussed the rationale for the creation of the sanctuary — to breed disease-free Tasmanian devils that can be reintroduced into the wild in order to build up their population which has been decimated due to a unique disease afflicting them. Tasmanian devils are the worlds largest living carnivorous marsupial unique to the island of Tasmania. They are extraordinary animals that range from coastal to alpine habitat throughout Tasmania. A shy nocturnal creature that has a vivacious appetite and almost mythical reputation it is an elusive animal that is rarely seen in the wild. Unfortunately devils are suffering from an infectious cancer called devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) which threatens to drive the species to extinction. This disease has more than halved the island’s population of Tasmanian devils in the last ten years and it is now considered and endangered species.
“The size of a small dog, [the Tasmanian devil] became the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world following the extinction of the thylacine in 1936. It is characterized by its stocky and muscular build, black fur, pungent odor, extremely loud and disturbing screech, keen sense of smell, and ferocity when feeding. The Tasmanian devil’s large head and neck allow it to generate among the strongest bites per unit body mass of any extant mammal land predator, and it hunts prey and scavenges carrion as well as eating household products if humans are living nearby.” —Wikipedia