The Tasmanian Devil Unzoo
When I learned about geography, probably in the 4th grade, my desire has always been to visit Australia, and especially Tasmania. Even though I have seen a lot of the world the elusive down under has always fascinated me, because of its diverse and different creatures. Not sure if it is because most of my family comes from an island or not, but I am always drawn to visit islands when I go on my adventures. The beautiful island of Tasmania was a dream come true and this is the first time I've ever been south of the equator!
It is a long and expensive ferry ride aboard the large cargo/passenger ship the Spirit of Tasmania. It took roughly 10 hours to cross, from Geelong, on the southern coast of Australia near Melbourne, to Davenport in northern Tasmania. We were taking a car and decided to cross at night to minimize our down time and we slept the entire voyage. It proved to be a smart move, except for the early 5 am departure!
What is a trip to Tasmania without seeing a Tasmanian Devil? Since we were warned early on to minimize driving at night due to the frequent accidents involving animals and automobiles, and the devil is a nocturnal animal, we booked tickets to The Tasmanian Devil Unzoo. As we were driving down to Hobart, we stopped in Taranna where the Unzoo is located. Besides taking numerous photographs, I purchased the cutest pair of devil socks to take home. The concept of the Unzoo is very interesting and not something we Americans are accustomed to seeing, but I must say I liked it. I was walking close to wild creatures that were not penned up...except for the devils and as you read on you read on you'll understand why. They are cute, but dangerous!
Here are some fun facts from the Unzoo's website:
"The innovative concept of the Unzoo was born in 2005 when two innovative zoo design consultants, Jon Coe and Ray Mendez, began exploring the idea of moving zoos away from their traditional design as a series of enclosures displaying animals for human entertainment.
Their vision was for something altogether different – an experience that would immerse human visitors in a natural environment, with animals as the dominant feature. An Unzoo would be a reversal of the traditional concept of a zoo. Instead of animals in enclosures for the benefit of humans, an Unzoo would invite visitors into natural habitats in which cages or barriers are removed or concealed and wild, as well as resident animals, are encouraged to interact with the environment.Animals have more dignity, freedom and self-determination, human visitors experience personal, memorable encounters with wildlife and nature. In 2007 Jon Coe, who had worked at more than 150 zoos around the world, came up with an “unzoo” master plan for the Hamilton family on Tasman Peninsula in South East Tasmaniaand the first intentional Unzoo project was under way. Now Tasmanian Devil Unzoo is a global leader in shaping the future for the zoos of the world."
In addition: "You can hand-feed friendly forester kangaroos, meet noisy wattlebirds and cheeky little parrots, wild wallabies, echidnas, native fish and nearly 100 bird species living around our Unzoo bush garden. Above all your entrance fee will us preserve the Tasmanian devil."
The Unzoo was worth the $44 Australian fee to visit. We could have spent hours roaming around the grounds. The devils, which are nocturnal by nature, have been trained to give visitors a spectacular experience by being out in broad daylight. They look cute and cuddly, but what you may not know is that they are talented scavengers, eating anything they can find, but primarily consuming carrion. Plus, they have the strongest bite force per body weight of any living mammal. We were warned not to put our hands in the enclosure, unless we wanted a missing finger! They are capable of consuming up to 40% of their body weight in 30 minutes. Yikes!
The Unzoo's devils do not have the facial tumor disease (DFTD) that first emerged in the 1990's in northern Tasmania that causes death within six months! It has caused an 80% decline the devil population. They are working on breeding programs to help release devils back into the wild.
Apparently, they have a bioluminescence that is common in marine animals and insects, and it has never been recored in mammals yet. They haven't a clue on what purpose that serves.
The animals name came from early European settlers who heard their blood-curdling screams and then saw what looked like a ferocious dog-like animal with red ears, a large jaw and very sharp teeth, so they called it "The Devil."
In the 1830's a bounty was placed on the devils since they posed a threat to chickens. They were trapped and poisoned for over a century and became a protected species in 1941. The populations then thrived, but now are being threatened again due to the disease DFTD.
In addition to the devils, we were treated to a host of wild birds, and much to my surprise, after hearing about kangaroos disemboweling humans, I was able to pet one. It was a "What the Heck" moment!!!!!
This trip to Tasmania was a treat in all ways....I want to return!
More fun facts can be found here: https://factanimal.com/tasmanian-devil/
Photos taken with a Nikon Z6II and a 24-120 S lens.
Yes, I am wearing a winter jacket with jeans, while feeding the kangaroos, and it is summer time in Tasmania!
This photo was taken by my husband Tracy Tower. The Unzoo is an experience I will always cherish.
Detroit People & Commercial Photographer