Saturday, January 1, 2011

Tasmania- Devils, Prisons, and Caves

We visited the Tasmanian Devils Conservation Park outside of Port Arthur.  They call this park an “unzoo” because they are working to transform the area into more open, free-flowing spaces that are only divided up by natural elements rather than the traditional cages.  The visitors will be the ones that move through a series of enclosures in order to minimize disturbing the animals.  They were still working on it, but it looks like it will be really nice when it’s done.
Tasmanian Devils are only found in Tasmania, and are part of the marsupial family.  This means they carry their babies in a pouch, like kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, and koalas.  We were able to attend one of the Tasmanian Devils feedings.  Turns out they are scavengers and will literally eat everything- meat, hair, bones, even teeth.  They must have an extremely hardcore digestive system.

We can confirm that Loony Tunes mislead us on their movements, as we saw no evidence of them turning into tornadoes.  However, the slobbering, snarling, and overall lack of intelligence they got spot on.  I think the best word to describe the Tasmanian Devils would be “rascally.”  For critters that spend their life snarling, slobbering, and fighting every chance they get, they’re actually pretty cute.  Our tour guide explained, “They’re not very fast, their eyesight isn’t very good, they’re not that smart, and they don’t live that long.  Really they don’t have much going for them.”

Tasmanian Devils are currently on the endangered animals list.  About 80% of the population has already been killed off by a contagious cancer that is spread by saliva.  Since the Devils fight over everything the disease is only stoppable by quarantining those that have not already been infected.  Despite tons of research they still have no idea how this cancer started or how to cure it.  It is only the 3rd known cancer that is contagious and spreads live cancer cells from one animal to the next.  The other 2 are a venereal cancer that affects dogs and some rare hamster cancer.  Bizarre.  It also does not help that they can only have 1 litter per year with a maximum of 4 babies, and their lifespan is 5 years.

We also saw a bird show at the unzoo.  Here their bird Talkie is collecting coin donations from the audience.  We need to teach our cats this trick.

This is Kermit a Tawny Frog-Mouth bird.  He is a strange looking guy, almost no beak or visible face and blends in particularly well with the trees he likes to hang out in. 

Another weird thing about Kermit is that he does not chew his food, just opens his mouth wide like a frog (hence the name) and swallows it whole.  This is a demonstration of just that.

After the unzoo, we went to Port Arthur. Port Arthur was the British prison in the 1800's for the worst of the worst. As the Brits used Australia as a penal colony, anyone sent there was already a convict. If they continued to commit crimes while in Australia, they were sent to Port Arthur. Judging by the bios of some of the convicts the crimes committed sounded pretty arbitrary. In the late 1800's, Port Arthur was shut down as gold was discovered in Tasmania, and the authorities figured that sending criminals to a place where they could potentially strike it rich wasn't much of a punishment. However, as the prison was converted to an insane asylum, largely for the current prisoners who had been driven insane by the horrible conditions, it doesn't seem like too realistic a concern.

This is just hilarious. Even the road signs for the Devils are snarly. And yes we did stop the car in the middle of the road to get this picture.

Just south of Port Arthur was a gourgous bay whose names escapes us. Really strong waves were breaking over the rocks, and the wind almost knocked us over a couple times. The coolest thing though was "The Remarkable Cave." Seriously, that is the name.

This cave is indeed remarkable. This picture doesn't really do it justice, but its absolutely beautiful with the tide coming in through the cave and the dramatic, rocky landscape.


  1. Happy New Years Laurel and Greg!

  2. Looks like gorgeous weather, but none too warm! Sounds like you're having an amazing trip. Thanks for all the photos.

  3. Y'all are a trip! Look like fun down there and those devils, hhhhmmmm look like some mean a*s Mother F**kers!