On our first evening at Cradle Mountain we visit Devils@Cradle, which is a wildlife sanctuary dedicated to the captive breeding of Tasmanian Devils, as well as two other species of marsupial carnivore, the Eastern Quoll and the Spotted Tail Quoll.
We have, of course, already visited another of the Devil sanctuaries at Bonorong where we saw a single Devil who was woken up from his slumbers at 2.00pm with food. Given that Devils are nocturnal this wasn’t necessarily entirely fair on the critter, though he was handsomely rewarded with dead chicks. By way of contrast Devils@Cradle feed their charges as dusk turns to darkness, in large floodlit enclosures.
The main enclosure holds five Devils, all around a year old and therefore roughly equivalent to human teenagers. Viewing begins at dusk, when photography is just possible.
The Devils obviously know it is feeding time and become more and more agitated, charging around the enclosure and chasing one another. Occasional fights break out, accompanied by much snarling and growling.
As darkness descends pieces of chopped up wallaby are hurled into the melee of Devils. Each grabs a piece and dashes off to somewhere he thinks is secluded to tuck into his prize. However the grass is always greener, as they say, and some Devils would rather have their friends’ bit of wallaby than their own. More chases and fights ensue, accompanied again by loud vocal protests. One Devil grabs a whole wallaby tail and hurtles around the enclosure, daring the others to catch him. They don’t even try, clearly calculating that this is one race they aren’t going to win.
Devils are fiercely competitive in the wild. This feeding regime is designed to ensure that they behave as normally as possible in captivity so that one day, hopefully, these noisy Devils or their offspring can be released back into the wild once the danger from Devil Facial Tumour Disease has abated. Unfortunately the light isn’t sufficient to take photos of the feeding frenzy, but the memory of five feisty Devils giving it their all lingers on.
Julie is however able to photograph, through glass, this Eastern Quoll:
We were lucky enough to see a few of these on our night drives with Andrew on Bruny Island, and it’s good to get a closer view. They, like the Devil, are endangered (albeit for different reasons) and the captive breeding programme is intended to provide some insurance against further losses in the wild. The staff at Devils@Cradle are passionate about the animals in their care, and it was a pleasure to see hear about their work and to enjoy the antics of their charges.