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 second part of my adventure, I stayed in the town of Launceston in the Northern part of Tasmania and drove out to two different sites to work with the captive groups of Tasmanian devils. The first was a beautiful wooded 54 acre free-range enclosure (FRE). The reason for having the devils in the FRE is to keep them in a disease free environment that still allows them to retain their natural behaviors. Hopefully one day these devils, or their offspring, will be released back into the wild. The second site was an intensive captive facility. They are able to hold a large amount of devils and are more visible to the keepers who take care of them.
Upon arrival at the FRE, we did a perimeter check to make sure nothing had dug any holes underneath the fencing. Wombats are known for digging quite extensive burrows! We filled up troughs with fresh water, picked up devil feces and did some general maintenance. Food for the devils is strung up on posts and camera traps set so that the keepers can see if any of the devils are having health issues. In the two days I was working in the FRE, we only caught a glimpse of just a couple devils. They would just pop right out of the bushes, give a little sniff and then disappear! It was a bit surprising when they did it but not as surprising as when the huntsmen spiders would pop out from under equipment. Even though I work with tarantulas at the zoo, I may have embarrassed myself by jumping about three feet in the air.
My first day at the captive site included a little match making. We received recommendations on which devils should be bred together based on their genetics. Since it is the beginning of their breeding season, we moved some devils to different enclosures so they could get used to smelling their potential mates. Just in time for Valentine’s Day!
A large part of the day here is gathering and distributing enrichment. Enrichment is important for any animal in captivity but especially for curious little devils. Favorite enrichment items of the devils include climbing structures, branches and popsicles filled with tasty things like chicken broth, sheep’s wool and feathers. Yummy. We also HAD to go to the beach and gather seaweed for them to play in. No complaints from this Minnesotan. However, on the way we had to make a stop to respond to a call that there were two devils that had been hit by cars. They scanned the roadkill to see if it had been one of our microchipped devils but neither had a chip. It was a grim reminder to slow down while driving in the roadkill capital of the world.
Find out more about Amanda’s trip to Tasmania and the other devils she got to meet in Part 3-Meeting the Devil Ambassadors.