Unzoo

Tasmania

Before getting to the animals themselves, there was an exhibition of art work done by them.  Incorporating wombat footprints, slithering snakes, jumping wallabies, sitting koalas, strutting cassowaries, and much more, this art was done by letting nature have its way–pretty cool, huh?

The Unzoo is a new-wave “zoo” based on the idea of having the animals feel in control, like the humans are the exhibition.  It also is a sanctuary for devils and has done lots of great work restoring Tasmania’s favorite animal.

The Tasmanian Devils population has been rapidly dwindling because of Devil Facial Tumor Disease, a communicable cancer.  In the wild, it spread rapidly and is killing many devils.  All of the devils at the Unzoo are completely cancer free and there is hope of a resurgence in the population.

Directly after we walked in we were rewarded with the thing we really came to see–devils!  They were a lot smaller than I thought of them and pretty adorable, until they start gnashing their teeth, of course.

The namesake area of the Unzoo is another devil enclosure, which is designed as more of a human enclosure.  After entering a door, you are inside a large fenced in box, while the devil is free in its meadow.

Here is where we saw a feeding, which was crazy.  They eat mostly already dead meat and can smell it from 2 km away.  When the meat, wombat head, was thrown to the devils, they fight with each other over it; all of the devils had visible scars or pieces bitten out of ears, etc from these scuffles.  The sound of them eating is loud as they eat the entire thing, bones and all.  Tasmanian Devils have the most powerful jaws compared to their body size in the world.

Another “Unzoo” area is the Devil Den.  This one is targeted more for small kids, as evidenced by the size of the tunnel, but hey, you gotta live a little.  After crawling through the tunnel, there is an opening to stand.  When I stood, my head was above ground in a bubble in the middle of the devils’ enclosure.  The devils can come right up to the bubble.  Again, it gives the impression that you are captured and they are free.  Unfortunately, no devils came up to the bubble while I was in it.

The Unzoo also had some bushwalking trails down to a bay lookout, which was gorgeous, and some more obscure animals: the Eastern Spotted Quoll and the Cape Barron Goose.

My favorite part was the open field full of kangaroos and pademelons (basically smaller kangaroos).  The kangaroos were a Tasmanian subspecies of the Eastern Gray Kangaroo and even the largest one was only about 1 meter tall.  We could pet them; they were for the most part very friendly towards humans, and they loved a rub on the stomach.  There was even a mom with a joey in her pouch, who was about 3 months old–very cute.

We loved the Unzoo so much we went back on another day and that time, they were having feeding of the kangaroos.  Much unlike the Tasmanian Devil feeding, there was simply 2 buckets of food and we were invited to grab some and hand feed the kangaroos–so awesome!  The pademelons had been very shy before and had run away from being petted, but coaxed with a little food, they would come right up to you, albeit a little tentatively.  Some of the Cape Barron Geese were also in this field and they would try to eat the food as well–typical.

The Unzoo was fantastic! Quintessentially Australian and a great model for other zoos.

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