The Minnesota Zoo connects people, animals and the natural world to save wildlife. One we we do that is through a special staff grant program using private funds to let Zoo staff pick wildlife conservation programs that are meaningful to them to support. Zoomobile’s Amanda Drews recently traveled to Tasmania to help support the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program. Read more about her experience below.
For the last part of my Tasmanian journey, I went to a few of the wildlife parks that work closely with the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program and feature devils as a main attraction. For most people, these facilities are the only way they will ever see a devil. This network of parks and zoos working together are establishing an insurance population in case the devils go extinct in the wild, a very realistic threat.
I met with some of the keepers and owners of Bonarong, Devils at Cradle, and Trowunna wildlife parks and Taronga Zoo to see how they care for the animals and interpret the devils to the public. This was helpful to see not only how other naturalists teach but to tie together the big picture message that is being sent and how people respond to that message. It was amazing to see someone come in there fearful of devils and leaving with a love for them. As someone who has heard their eerie calls in the middle of the night I can see how they got their bad reputation and name. However, after spending time with both wild and captive devils I learned they all have their own unique personalities from sweet and charming to feisty and full of attitude.
Bottom line is without the devils, invasive species such as foxes and cats could take over the island of Tasmania if the devils are not in direct competition with them. This would lead to the decline of many other species in Tasmania. The devils not only clean up the environment by eating roadkill and diseased animals in the wild but help prevent diseases such as blowfly strike from being spread by decaying animals around farms. The Tasmanian devil is an incredibly important animal that needs help right now before it’s too late. I’m glad I could play a part in their conservation and represent the Minnesota Zoo by helping both with the expedition on Maria Island and at the captive facilities. I hope to inspire more people, no matter where they live, to become advocates for devils!