As we opened our car doors at the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, the excited voice of a woman wafted across the dusty parking lot, “Would you like to watch me feed the baby wombat?”
I confess at that moment I did not know a wombat from a vampire bat, however my reply, with an added dash of squealing delight, was unequivocally, “Yes! Yes we would!”
“Well hurry along then it’s feeding time for the babies.”
So began our time at Bonorong in meeting one of the hundreds of volunteer wildlife carers who take in animals reported to Tasmania’s main 24 hour wildlife rescue service. As the volunteer bottle fed the wombat, who apparently got all the cute genes for those animals with surnames of ‘bat’, she explained how she also cares for baby wombats at home.
Another smaller wombat hid away in a cloth pouch over her shoulder. Not everyone can say they have a teeny weeny wombat in their purse!
The wombat requires 1-2 years of intense physical contact before it gradually becomes wild and ready for release. The fastest marsupial alive, wombats can run up to 40km/hrs but only for 100-150 meters. I have visions of them sitting gasping after that effort and looking for a pouch to crawl back into.
When not outrunning their predators the dense cartilage plate on the wombat’s back acts as a shield that can not be bitten through. Should a wild dingo decide to poke his head too far in a wombat’s burrow, the wombat can either asphyxiate or crush the skull of ‘Mr. Nosy Dingo’. Obviously it’s not all cuteness and cuddles for the wild wombat.
Is Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary a zoo?
Bonorong focuses on animal rescue and receives over 8000 calls to their rescue line per year. The goal, whenever possible, is to release all the animals back to the wild. During our tour, our guide spoke of a time when the facility was a zoo and some of those animals have had to remain to be cared for as they would not survive in the wild now.
Why do so many animals need to be rescued in Tasmania?
During our time at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary we learned that in Tasmania approximately 300,000 animals are killed on roads each year. Be assured I did not add an extra zero. Besides that astounding number, animals also fall prey to predators including dogs and disease.
A number of species we saw at Bonorong are extinct everywhere else on the planet, save for Tasmania, including the Tasmanian Devil.
Why is the Tasmanian Devil Endangered?
In 1996 the first case of Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) was described. By 2010 estimates suggested 80% of Tasmanian Devils had been affected by the non viral transmissible parasitic cancer. With mortality rates of 100%, sanctuaries with breeding programs such as Bonorong Wildlife are vital in preventing extinction of Tasmania’s namesake animal.
What other wildlife is sheltered at Bonorong?
From Echidnas and their babies called puggles to tawny frog mouth birds who swallow pieces of meat whole, the sanctuary is a wildlife extravaganza. Emus, bettongs, cockatoos, lorikeets and spotted tail quolls, nicknamed baby face assassins for their ability to take down an animal four times it’s size, and an albino possum named Fidget add to the menagerie.
Fidget can never be released as the other possums would never accept his unusual color. That’s because possums are generally brown to blend in with their surroundings. Fidget’s beautiful white coat would stick out like a sore thumb making the whole possum family vulnerable to predator attacks. For this reason they would not not accept him, or worse attack him themselves.
Apparently problems with discrimination occur in the animal kingdom too.
Kangaroos wander about and happily accept feed given to visitors by the staff. Dave is looking very popular with the locals don’t you think?
Perhaps my favorite animals of all were the wee Sugar Gliders who weigh approximately 100grams. With wing like skin they can glide in the air for 100 meters. I want a Sugar Glider suit.
Final words on Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
I am wild about animals. Yes pun intended. I love to chat with any animal I meet. My family rolls their eyes at my nonsensical behavior. I can’t help it. I love them all, save for wild dogs chasing me on a bicycle. One has to draw limits somewhere.
At Bonorong every staff member we saw or heard, truly cared about these animals. We were booked for the Feeding Frenzy tour however if one of the animals did not want to be encouraged to be fed, they were left alone. The want and care of the animal came first. I loved that!
Here’s a 2 minute collage of our time with the animals at Bonorong. You’ve always wanted a kangaroo to eat out of your hand right?
To learn more about the wildlife rescue work being done at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary click here.
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We were guests of Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary however all opinions and squeals of glee were our own.