Four members of the Manning River Turtle Conservation Group, myself included, were given an extremely rare privilege in September – playing with Tasmanian devil and Eastern quoll joeys.
Due to our relationship with Aussie Ark in helping to raise funds for a facility for an insurance population for the endangered Manning River turtle, we were gifted a weekend at Devil Ark and Aussie Ark in the Barrington Tops.
After arriving at Devil Ark on Saturday afternoon, we went out with a keeper as he went about his usual feeding rounds, bouncing around the rough and soggy ground in an ATV.
We watched different groups of adult devils co-operatively (and sometimes not so co-operatively) feeding on kangaroo haunches, visited with the insurance population of endangered Eastern quolls and then had a tour through the Aussie Ark enclosures.
After the tour we returned to the Interpretive Centre for what we’d all been waiting for excitedly – meeting some devil joeys.
Brother and sister joeys, Phantom and Phoenix, are being reared on site by the keepers, who live there 24/7.
Cuddling and holding the little joeys was an awe-inspiring experience. While holding them, I was conscious that this was something incredibly rare – holding a baby endangered Tasmanian devil on the mainland. It’s not something a lot of people get to experience.
Their fur was silky soft, and they smelled of milk. Their little claws are incredibly sharp; I found this out while Phoenix, the little girl, climbed up my arm to nestle on my shoulder. Thankfully, their teeth at this stage were only just starting to come in. I’d hate to feel the full force of big adult teeth, because I could fully feel hers firmly biting me as she took hold of my jumper in her mouth, along with some of my arm underneath, although it didn’t break my skin. Apparently, Phoenix likes to have fabric in her mouth for self-comfort, similar to a human child’s blankie.
On Sunday morning, it was our turn to nurse with tiny Eastern quoll joeys, who have a penchant for trying to run up inside your sleeve. Again, their fur was incredibly soft, they smelled of milk, and I was struck with the extreme rarity of the experience. They were so tiny, and incredibly pretty with their white spots on black fur.
While the other girls decided that they preferred the quolls over the devils, because of their delicate prettiness, I am decidely besotted with the Tasmanian devils. They are such characters.
Leaving at midday on Sunday, the mood was decidedly flat inside the 4WD. It was hard leaving Devil Ark, not just because of the high of having hands-on contact with the rare and gorgeous little creatures, but, for me, the silence, the bird and animal life, and the high country of the Barrington Tops.
I sad-cried when I got home, feeling all I wanted to do was go back up there. And I sad-cried in the car on the way to work the next day!
Devil Ark runs tours for the public on a regular basis, where you tour the facilities and can also meet the joeys hands-on, depending on the time of the year.
It’s an experience you will treasure and never forget.
For more information visit at devilark.org.au.