At this wildlife park, you can really get up close to our favourite ferocious little Aussies. Liz Schaffer drops in.
Even for local Tasmanians, the easiest way to see a Tasmanian devil is to visit one in captivity. These nocturnal, shy little creatures do their best not to be seen.
The Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park in Taranna was established in 1978 for the study of these fascinating carnivorous marsupials. Just 15 minutes from Port Arthur, the wildlife park is a popular family day trip.
The park is located on the Tasman Peninsula, a part of Tassie that is free from the horrific disease that causes facial tumours and has killed off half the Tasmanian devil population over the past decade. A successful breeding program saw three litters of disease-free little imps born last year.

The recently revamped grounds look, feel and smell like a small working farm. The rustic set-up includes wooden fences, practical gates, corrugated iron and a smattering of rural paraphernalia that’s set off by the surrounding native shrub. Still, the park is clearly designed with adventurous youngsters in mind. There’s room to run, there are plenty of viewing platforms and a dug-out style observation area puts you at eye-level with a curious devil or two (though it requires a little agility to enter).

My exploration of the park begins at one of the four enclosures housing the pint-sized devils. They seem charming and personable, but soon take to biting and snarling at each other before basking together in the sun. They act just like toddlers.
As captivating as their antics are, they’re not the only animals on show here. I become distracted by the quolls, and unfortunately miss the day’s final devil feeding. But with six feedings daily your chances of doing the same are pretty slim.

Having missed the bone-crunching feeding session, an unexpected highlight for me is the Kings of the Wind free-flight bird presentation, where a group of parrots steal gold coins, displaying perfect comic timing and milking the smitten audience for all the applause they can get. A chilled-out tawny frogmouth does a great, actor’s-audition-worthy impression of a tree for a full half-hour while a falcon dives through the legs of a dozen nervous visitors. All the birds on display arrived at the park either injured or orphaned and have been raised by staff, who clearly have a lot of respect for their animals.

The park is also involved in a variety of research programs, so it feels good to know that my entry fee goes towards the conservation of these beautiful creatures.

THE AT Verdict

Liz Schaffer, who paid her own way and visited anonymously, says:
This slightly out-of-the-way park is definitely worth a visit. While it only takes an afternoon to explore, the residents are extremely personable and keen to play. Combining a quirky layout with entertaining demonstrations, it makes a unique day out, perfect for families with young kids.

The Details

Where
Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park, 5990 Port Arthur Highway, Taranna.
Notes Entry is $30 for adults, $16 for children and $75 for a family pass.
Contact
(03) 6250 3230; www.tasmanian devilpark.com

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