A visit to Tasmania would not be complete without an encounter with it’s most famous local – the Tassie devil. We think we’ve found the perfect place to meet them too – at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary just a short drive from Hobart.
What makes Bonorong stand out from the crowd is the incredible work they do for the animals, not only in the sanctuary but also in the state as a whole. The residents who you will meet during your visit have been rescued and are being rehabilitated – with many being released back into the wild when ready. As well as caring for the animals in the sanctuary and educating and entertaining visitors, Bonorong also run a 24/7 wildlife rescue service – the largest one in Tasmania. Their passion for animal welfare shines through not only the sanctuary but also in the wonderful staff, who clearly have a passion for wildlife and conservation.
On arrival we met Sonja, who was to be our guide for the morning. Included in your entry fee is a fully guided tour which runs three times a day. This is the best thing to do as you arrive, as you can learn all about the centre and the animals you’ll be encountering during your visit.
Our first stop was the wombat enclosure, where Sonja introduced us to Toralee – an adorable 16-month-old who had unfortunately been orphaned when her mother was shot. Thankfully someone rescued the joey, and called Bonorong’s wildlife rescue service, which operates with the help of hundreds of volunteer carers across the state. One of the most important things we learned during our visit was what to do if we saw an injured animal. Keeping the animal calm and relieving their stress as much as possible is essential, as well as handling them as little as possible and never trying to give them food or drink.
One of the most surprising things about meeting this young wombat was how playful she was. Just like a puppy, she climbed all over Sonja, fighting for attention and trying to chew everything in site – including her trousers and radio! Sonja explained that young wombats reach about the age of two and the playfights get a bit more serious, with wombat kids kicking their mums out of the burrow when they are ready for their independence. Once she reaches this stage, Torallee will be almost ready for the wild and will be reintroduced to her natural habitat.
Our next stop was meeting the famous Tasmanian devils – something we’d been looking forward to since arriving in Tassie. We’ve been looking out for them, but these little guys are pretty elusive in the wild. One of the sad things we learned was that devils are now endangered, a huge contributing factor to this is that Tasmania has been branded ‘the roadkill capital of the world’, with over half a million animals killed on the roads each year. Tasmanian devils forage for meat, and the smell of roadkill often lures them onto the highway where they are also endangered. We learned at this point that whilst driving around, moving any roadkill to the bush area at the side of the road can be a huge lifesaver for wildlife (being of course incredibly cautious yourself whilst on the road). Another thing we can do as travellers frequently on the road is to check the pouches of any marsupial road kill – if it’s a female then nine times out of ten there will be babies on board, which can be rescued and reared by wildlife sanctuaries such as Bonorong.
I was instantly struck by how relaxed the devils were in their enclosure, they were laying their quite happily sunbaking and posing for photos! We learned how they were persecuted back in the early days of European settlement due to their haunting call from the bush (watch our video below to hear it for yourself – would you have been scared?) and their spooky eyes and ears, which glow red when they are excited.
Modern day devils are now suffering from a new threat, DFTD – Devil Facial Tumour Disease, a cancer that affects their head and face that there is no cure for and proves fatal when contracted. Added to the danger posed by humans around the state, it is critical that devils are protected, and through education, treatment, breeding and research, Bonorong are working tirelessly to reverse some of the damage done.
We also got to meet the resident koalas and echidnas, then spent the rest of our day exploring the sanctuary at leisure. As part of your entry fee, you also receive a bag of kangaroo food each to feed the mob living in the beautiful grounds. The views back over Hobart and the mountains are stunning, and you can spend ages relaxing with the kangaroos who will be your new best mate once they spot the bag in your hand! The staff will also teach you just how to scratch a roo to make them almost roll over with happiness.
In January 2018, Bonorong opened Tasmania’s first wildlife hospital. Currently staffed two days a week with the aim of a fully staffed, full-time service, visitors to Bonorong can watch the vet in action through one-way glass on a dedicated viewing platform.
One of the best things about visiting Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary is knowing that every dollar you spend at the park goes right back into caring for the animals and is making a difference. The work that is done at the sanctuary is fully self-funded, and the rescue service is reliant on donations and guest entry fees. Bonorong is a true eco-tourism attraction with a huge heart – do not miss the chance to visit this amazing team of wildlife warriors, as well as some incredibly cute Aussie animals.
Bonorong is open 365 days a year from 9am – 5pm (no guided tours on Christmas Day). You can find them at 593 Briggs Road, Brighton, Tasmania. Your entry ticket includes a guided tour, but you can also upgrade your entry to one of their wildlife experiences – from up close animal encounters to joining a feeding frenzy or a night tour. You can see all the options on their website here.
We were guests of Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary for the purpose of this review, but all thoughts and opinions are our own.
If you’re a wildlife lover visiting Tasmania don’t miss the chance to meet some monotremes at The Platypus House in Beauty Point, not far from Launceston.