Shaking Hands With the Devil in Tasmania
By: Mike Jerrard
Located at the bottom of Australia lies the rugged pristine wilderness filled island often overlooked by tourists heading down under. It may not have the glitz and glam of Sydney or Melbourne, but what it lacks in skyscrapers it makes up for with its towering 300+year old trees and its nightlife consists not of bars and restaurants but rather witnessing penguins return to burrows and devils fighting over a meal.
The Tasmanian devil is the symbol of Tassie and with the likely extinction of the Thylacine has become the largest carnivorous marsupial left in the world. It caught the first explorers and settlers by surprise with its menacing night cries and tenacious feeding habits. Its ears were said to turn red much like Satan when disturbed or stressed and is scientific family name translates as flesh loving.
But for all its original bad wrap as being a pest or grotesque animal, today it finds itself loved and protected by the masses. Once common across Van Diemen’s Lan or Tasmania, the emergence of DFTD ( Devil Facial Tumor Disease) has seen its numbers decline dramatically. As they are quite aggressive when feeding, the disease has spread easily from bites inflicted between individuals.
Luckily rescue efforts were put in place swiftly over the past few decades and programs were put in place to ensure the devil’s survival. Non-infected animals were introduced to safe and secure islands like Maria Island off Tasmania’s Southeast coast. This along with many breeding programs have seen the devils return to the wilds of Tassie. There is also recent news of a possible breakthrough where by way of immunotherapy, scientists may be able to create a vaccine to stop the cancer dead in its tracks. Trials with captive animals has proven rather successful and hopefully in the near future DFTD will be a thing of the past.
Best Places to see the Tassie Devil
Although the population of devils has been reduced dramatically, one can still witness this incredible animal across the island. Tasmania boasts strong populations in the island’s East and Northwest. Stay away from highly elevated areas and the Southwest as that is the least likely areas one is to come across a wild devil. When in the Northwest focus on areas west of the Forth River such as the Tarkine Wilderness.
Maria Island and Narawntapu National Park has seen devils reintroduced and one can therefore have a chance at glimpsing one in the regions. Maria Island is just a short drive and beautiful ferry ride from Hobart and Narawntapu NP lies just outside of Devonport. Although Tasmania may seem isolated it is rather accessible from many of Australia’s large and popular tourist cities.
If hiking into pure rugged wilderness isn’t quite your thing or if you lack the time, then Tasmania offers many sanctuary setting where one can be guaranteed up close and personal encounters will these lovable icons.
Notable places include:
So I encourage you to make a deal with this devil as you will be assured to not regret it. They are a symbol of Tasmania’s rugged and raw wilderness as well as its resiliency.