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The Future of the Tasmanian Devil


I visited Tasmania as part of the Behind the Scenery campaign. To see more of my stories and photos, visit the Behind the Scenery magazine site.

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It comes into view as a whirling tornado, causing destruction and chaos while sounds of crazed gobbledygook fill the air.

For most of the world, this is what a Tasmanian devil looks and acts like – like the Looney Tunes character known and loved throughout television watching generations.

But did you know that the Tassie devil is both real and mostly docile?

True story.

In fact, on my recent trip to Tasmania’s North West, I pet a real, live, calm Tasmanian devil.

Brooke, Danielle, Aussie the Tasmanian Devil

Brooke, Danielle, and Aussie the Tasmanian Devil

His name is Aussie, born and raised in captivity, so I DO NOT RECOMMEND TRYING THIS AT HOME (the claws on those little guys are impressive). However, I do recommend paying him a visit at the lovely Tasmanian devil sanctuary, [email protected].

[email protected] offers visitors an open pen experience, where peering over the top of an enclosure lets us see into the daily lives of these cute little creatures. The sad side of this story, however, is the reasoning behind the need for such a sanctuary.

Aussie, the Tasmanian devil

Aussie, the Tasmanian devil

See, Aussie has been raised and prized as a resident of [email protected] because of his genetic background, with one of his parents having come from the area near the Arthur River. Tasmanian devils of this area are believed to have a natural genetic resistance to the devil facial tumor disease (DFTD) that has been heavily endangering the wild population in recent years. DFTD, while once thought to be caused by a virus or carcinogens and pollution, is now understood as a cancer, and one that is actually transferred through physical contact – like fighting, which in devils is both common and done with aggressive bites to the face.

Sources say that the overall devil population has declined in the region of 80-95%.

Luckily, there are still healthy devils around, like Aussie, and animal sanctuaries, like [email protected], battling the disease through research, education and protection. Years of looking closely at the disease has unveiled that lack of genetic diversity in the population may enable the mutation of the facial tumor to run rampant. That’s where our little Aussie comes in.

Danielle and Aussie

Danielle and Aussie

Because of natural barriers separating the east and west sides of Tasmania, the population in the north west presents a slightly different genetic background, and one that hasn’t seen the same effects of the disease. The key at this point in devil conservation is simply breeding devils of different regions and backgrounds in hopes that it strengthens the remaining population.

During my brief visit to [email protected], Aussie was introduced, for the 3rd time, to a lovely little lady devil. You could tell he was walking on eggshells after being placed in the pen where potential lady friend rested in her shelter; after hearing about the encounters on the two previous occasions, it was not hard to understand why!

Aussie the devil, walking on eggshells.

Aussie the devil, walking on eggshells.

All was calm and peaceful for several minutes until, apparently, Aussie got a bit too close for comfort. Lady devil spun right out of her shelter and chased him away in that cartoon-like aggressiveness.

Talk about playing hard to get!

I guess she just doesn’t know the severe importance of this particular mating encounter. You know, the whole future-of-the-species-depends-on-it kind. No, lady devil, this is not just another lame pick-up line.

But [email protected] worker Danielle and her team are determined to keep pushing the pair. Hopefully, with a little match-making and a watchful eye, the future of the iconic Tasmanian devil will not be written alongside the likes of its once upon a time neighbor, the Tasmanian tiger.

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[email protected] is open daily from 10am, and is easily accessible on the way to Cradle Mountain.


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15 Responses to The Future of the Tasmanian Devil

  1. Amanda @ Adventures All Around April 17, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

    Glad you got to meet those funny devils… they really are an amazing animal, and I hope we do manage to save them from that horrible disease.

    And how strange does it feel to give one of them a pat (again, with an expert holding them!). I’ve always been very wary of those strong jaws, but they’re also lovely when you do get the chance to get close.

    • Brooke April 23, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

      Yes, Amanda, I kept my distance regardless of Danielle holding him close. I’ve heard about those jaws!!

  2. Tracy Z April 17, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

    oh wow, they look cuter than expected!

    • Brooke April 18, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

      Hehe, kind of like rodent puppies 😉

    • Brooke April 23, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

      I hope the ladies warm up to him soon, too! 🙂 Thanks for reading.

  3. Karisa April 18, 2013 at 7:19 am #

    Thanks for sharing, Brook! I often focus my travels too much on architecture,history and culture. You’ve reminded me to include our animal friends in my adventures 🙂

    • Brooke April 23, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

      Thanks for reading, Karisa! I think there are some parts of the world where wildlife is a top attraction, and Australia is one of them. The wildlife here is just incredible.

  4. Ayngelina April 19, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    Wow that’s really interesting!

    • Brooke April 23, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

      Totally interesting! I’m glad that I got to experience this while in Tasmania because I knew of the problem but not the extent of it. It was eye-opening.

  5. Kristin of Be My Travel Muse April 22, 2013 at 12:01 am #

    Awww looks like a little bear! So cute.

    • Brooke April 23, 2013 at 8:18 pm #

      Hehe a little bear that can crush through bone 😉 They are kind of cute, though, and I really hope we are able to save them from this disease.

  6. Emily April 24, 2013 at 12:07 am #

    Wow! What a neat experience!

  7. Marcello Arrambide April 1, 2014 at 7:25 am #

    Awww. He looks absolutely adorable! He’s NOTHING like the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Tunes.

    It’s sad that their population has dwindled down so significantly 🙁

  8. Craig July 22, 2014 at 7:53 am #

    I went to Tassie not long a go and thought I would see loads of devils – like you do kangaroos on the mainland – its such a sad story, lets hope they make a comeback.

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