Tassie tour day 4: Cradle Mountain to St Helens

Trip Start Nov 06, 2009
Trip End May 28, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hillcrest Tourist Park

Flag of Australia  , Tasmania,
Tuesday, June 1, 2010

We didn't want to leave Tassie without seeing a Tassie Devil so we paid a visit to theTasmanian Devil Sanctuary just outside the national park.

We were a bit too keen and arrived at the sanctuary half an hour before it had opened, but as we hung around waiting we spotted a couple of wild wallabies feeding on bushes nearby. Managed to get a couple of metres away from them without worrying them too much - check  out the pics!

The sanctuary is dedicated specifically to marsupial carnivores, i.e. just to Tasmanian devils, spotted quolls and eastern quolls (the closest relation to devils).

We were shown a short documentary and the keeper gave us a talk about the conservation work the centre does, including their breeding programme, orphan hand rearing programme and field and lab research.

He explained that devils used to live on mainland Australia but became extinct around 400 years ago, probably when the dingos arrived, but the ones in Tassie were OK as the dingos couldn't get across the Bass Strait.

But then European settlers arrived and the 'anthropomorphisation' of the animal began (humans attributing human traits to them, e.g. labelling them 'devils' in the first place, thereby giving them an undeservedly bad reputation).

The settlers considered them a nuisance and called them 'devils' because of their noisy eating habits (snarls and high-pitched screeching), and because of their seemingly threatening gape/yawn (which the keeper explained is not a display of aggression, but actually more a sign of fear and uncertainty, and usually a bluff used to avoid harmful fighting when feeding on a big carcass with other devils).

The settlers also blamed devils for killing chickens - although it's since been proved that wild dogs and Tasmanian tigers were the real culprits - so a bounty scheme was set up and loads were trapped and killed over the centuries, until they became so rare that in 1941 they finally became a protected species.

But now the tassie devil is again under threat of extinction (experts estimate within the next 25-30 years), mainly due to the fatal Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), a cancer which is rapidly spreading and killing them off, particularly in the northeastern part of the island where reported sightings have dropped by around 95% since 1993. On top of this, some idiot recently took it upon himself to introduce European red foxes to Tasmania, which are a huge direct threat as they'll compete for food and habitat.  Plus, despite the protection measures now in place, humans remain a threat as over 2000 devils are killed by road traffic every year. Poor devils.

Equipped with this newly-gained knowledge we had a wander around the facility. Although many of them were still asleep, we got to see 3 or 4 devils and a spotted quoll, and got to pet one of the devils, named Ebony.

Despite the keeper's very passionate opposition to anthropomorphisation (he used the word many many times throughout our 15 minute chat - rather impressive really as it's quite a tongue-twister), he also went on to enthusiastically inform us that one of the devils, Daisy, has her very own Facebook page and that we must add her as a friend when we got home. So maybe not all anthropomorphisation is bad...PHOTO_ID_R=2_ebony.jpg]

Then piled back into the camper and headed for the East coast. The road was long and twisting but took us through some stunning scenery, and a lot of not-so-pretty roadkill too - we must have seen about 40-50 dead animals during the 4 hours it took us to get to St Helens  :- (

We got a pitch at the Hillcrest Tourist Park on St Helens Point, a short walk away from the beach, enjoyed a final slap-up campervan meal using everything that was left in the fridge then took a final stroll down to the beach to admire the spectaculary starry sky and have some more long-exposure photo fun. Then retired to the camper to play cards and polish off the rest of the wine plus the best part of the very nice single malt Harry had purchased from Hellyers Distillery the previous day. 

Will detox when we get back to the mainland!

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