When we saw that the excursion we booked for the day included a “kangaroo meet & feeding frenzy”, this is what I pictured- two or three kangaroos being kept close to their keepers while a busload of tourists jockey for the animals’ attention. Boy, was I wrong. Not much about the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary in Tasmania was exactly what I had expected. I thought it would be crowded, but our bus was the only one there and we made up most of the guests. I thought the animals would be cooped up and quiet, but they were out and about and active. I thought I would leave feeling pretty much the same as when I got there, but I left with a mind much more conscious than before about the plight of injured and abandon animals.
The biggest thing to remember about Bonorong is that it is not a zoo- it is a care center dedicated to the idea of getting injured and abandoned animals ready to be released back into the wild. Some of the animals there have been hit by cars, fallen ill, become orphaned, or have even been harmed by other animals. The experts who work there always have the animals’ best interests in mind when deciding on a plan for their care, and many times the animal is successfully released back into its natural habitat. As a guest there, my entry fee went right into all of the programs that help the animals rehabilitate, and that made me feel good about paying it.
The experience here is true and authentic. Our guide was very knowledgeable and engaging as she brought us around the grounds to all the different species of animals. Most of them I had never seen in real life before, so it was quite exciting. We started off with the Tasmanian devil, which is so much smaller and cuter than I had imagined! There are currently about twenty living at the sanctuary and while we saw a few out and about only one was outgoing enough to come close and say hello. Even then, he didn’t want to show us his face so photos were difficult to get. He also didn’t want to snack on the treats our guide offered him, but we were glad we got to see him up close. Sadly, there is a cancer, called Devil Facial Tumor Disease, affecting a large number of Tasmanian devils and as a result their numbers are dwindling. Not much can be done about the disease directly, so the keepers here operate a breeding program for this endangered animal in addition to advocating for their safety from other threats (such as vehicle strikes and dog bites).
Perhaps the best survival story that we heard all day was that of Tina the wombat. Tina and her mother were hit by a car when she was less than three months old, leaving Tina an injured orphan. The folks at Bonorong’s 24 hour wildlife rescue service scooped her up and now she is doing better than ever. They estimate she will be ready for release in the wild just two or three months from now. Tina is adorable and she wasn’t nearly as shy as her devil friends! Another animal we got up close and personal with was the koala, though he was a little bit grumpy as the keeper held him out for us to pet. His fur was incredibly soft, and he smelled so strongly of eucalyptus.
The grand finale of our time at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary was the kangaroo feeding frenzy. As I said at the start of this post, I imagined that people would outnumber the kangaroos and we would be struggling to get rid of the bag of kangaroo food we had been given when we came in. Instead, dozens and dozens of kangaroos greeted us expectantly, hardly giving us a chance to get the food into our hands before their tongues were reaching for it! They were enthusiastic and hungry, and we ate up the attention they gave us by keeping the snacks coming. Once all the food was gone, we rubbed them on the chest just as the keepers and showed us, and it was enough to keep them around for a little while longer. They were so docile and so friendly, and we really enjoyed the time we spent with them. We were pretty sad to say goodbye to them.
Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary was a Tasmania highlight for us. I was glad that our cruise ship offered this excursion to us because it is in a location that is a little bit hard to get to without a car. It is definitely worth a look into no matter how you plan to get around Tasmania. Enjoy these witty little signs reminding you not to pet some of the animals.