Australia is an animal lover’s paradise with many wildlife sanctuaries dotting this beautiful country. These shelters care for animals, conduct breeding programs and research. They are instrumental in bringing some animals back from the brink of extinction. Most of these sanctuaries are funded completely from private donations and admission fees. Here are three that are making a difference.
About an hour from Melbourne, Moonlit functions as an outdoor classroom teaching visitors about the animals. During the day the staff gives educational tours. At night, the tours offer explanations of how nocturnal animals live in the wild.
Bonorong is home to many animals but the Tasmanian Devil is the star attraction. The Devil is a carnivorous marsupial native to the island of Tasmania off the southeastern cost of Australia. He is called “Devil” because when the first European settlers landed in Tasmania in 1822 they would hear frightening screeches at night that they imagined is what the devil sounded like. Turns out it was just this local animal about the size of a small dog. The devil has strong claws, frequently displays his fangs and emits a foul stench when it is stressed. He sometimes hunts but is basically a scavenger that eats everything; bones, fur. Sounds like a real attractive guy!
Naturally the local human population saw a stinky, fierce-looking, screeching creature as a threat and hunted it almost to extinction by the 1990s. In 2008 the Devil was classified as an endangered species and its numbers began to climb again. Just as things were looking up for this timid marsupial a fatal disease called devil facial tumor disease (DFTD) destroyed about 80% of the Devil population. These poor guys just couldn’t catch a break. Now, between the Australian government and local animal sanctuaries like Bonorong, efforts are having some success addressing the disease and the Devil’s comeback is back on track.
Ever since European settlers came to Australia sea lions had been hunted for food, skin and bait. Some species were hunted close to extinction. In 1954 Seal Bay, on the southern cost of Kangaroo Island, was declared a habitat protected zone. Today the park supports a large colony of Australian sea lions and welcomes over 100,000 visitors. The area is so restricted that visitors can only view the seals with a guide. Still, you do get reasonably close in their natural habitat without disturbing the seals.
Also on the southern cost of Australia’s Kangaroo Island is another, different species, seal colony. Here the seals frolic in a natural pool secure in the knowledge that the Great White sharks can’t get at them.
What is YOUR favorite animal of Australia?