February 3, 2017

Animals of the Tasman Peninsula

Posted by llipuma

By Lauren Lipuma

Lauren Lipuma is AGU’s public information specialist. She is attending the AGU Chapman Conference on submarine volcanism in Hobart, Tasmania. Read previous blog posts from this trip here.

On Wednesday, we took a field trip to the Tasman Peninsula to see some of Tasmania’s native animals in their natural habitat. Our first stop was the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo. According to the owners, the unzoo is the complete opposite of a zoo. Instead of displaying animals in cages and enclosures, the unzoo allows visitors to interact with animals (both wild and resident) in their natural environment. There are few enclosures and mostly open space where animals are free to come and go as they please.

Left: The Tasman Peninsula circled in red. Right: Our route to the Unzoo.

The main attractions for us at the unzoo were the famous Tasmanian devils. These small marsupials are vicious scavengers and are so named because of the devilish noise they make when fighting with each other, which is often. Unfortunately, the Tasmanian devil population is under threat because of a rare contagious cancer called devil facial tumor disease. The cancer is spread through saliva and once a devil contracts it, he or she has only 6 months to live.

Three of the 30 or so Tasmanian devils living at the unzoo.

Currently there is no cure, and the entire Tasmanian devil population was almost wiped out, but the devils on the Tasman Peninsula have been kept in isolation from the rest of the population and are doing pretty well. The unzoo has played a big role in maintaining the devil population on the peninsula and keeping them from contracting the disease.

The cemetery where Tasmanian devils are buried.

We didn’t get to spend much time at the unzoo, but we did also get to see the kangaroos that live there, a few tawny frogmouths (nocturnal birds similar to nightjars), a parrot with an Australian accent and some quolls, small carnivorous marsupials I had never heard of. See more photos and videos from the unzoo on AGU’s Instagram page.

I had a little too much fun with the kangaroos. I almost missed the bus.

After the unzoo, we stopped for lunch in Doo Town. I don’t know why it’s called that, but every house in Doo Town is named with ‘Doo’ in the title – Dr. Doo-Little, Doo Nix, Doo Wop, Doo-n Little, and others.

We had lunch at Doo-licious – a food truck at the Blowhole, a rock formation where seawater is pushed through a tunnel and sprayed upward at certain times of the year. After lunch we headed down to Port Arthur to begin our eco-cruise of the peninsula – stay tuned for a recap of this thrilling ride!

—Lauren Lipuma is AGU’s public information specialist. She is attending the AGU Chapman Conference on submarine volcanism in Hobart, Tasmania.