Australia’s wildlife ranges from deadly and dangerous to sweet and adorable. Most visitors to the land down under will want to see some of these animals while traveling the country.
I usually try to avoid animals in tourism as I just don’t know how they’ve been treated in captivity, but Australia actually has plenty of places where you can see the local animals without going to a zoo. One of those places is Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary in my home state of Tasmania.
The sanctuary sits on a large hillside pasture, which has been designed to imitate an environment similar to the natural habitat of its animals. Each of the animals at the sanctuary is there for a reason, most of the time because they were orphaned or injured and needed care (most of the time due to road accidents). Many of the wild animals that arrive at Bonorong are released back into the wild once they are healthy enough.
Tasmania has previously been a victim of species extinction when the Tasmanian tiger (thylacine) died out in the 1930s, so conservation programs are a major part of Bonorong’s operation. These programs have helped restore and protect the population of endangered species, such as the world famous Tasmanian devil (which happens to look nothing like the cartoon character). The number of wild devils was drastically reduced due to a facial tumor disease that has affected the population since 1996. Conservation programs like the one at Bonorong help to stop species like this from going extinct.
Visitors to the sanctuary can interact with many of the animals in a way that doesn’t stress them. Cuddling a koala is not allowed, but patting the back of a koala while it sits comfortably in a tree is something that every guest will have the opportunity to do. Hand-feeding kangaroos is also an experience enjoyed by every visitor to Bonorong. The entrance fee includes a bag of kangaroo pellets (which are mostly made of oats) and the local kangaroos will often hop up to visitors for a feed and a chest rub.
How you can help
There are many things that the average local or visitor to Tasmania can do to help the endemic species. The sanctuary’s website lists these and they include, among others:
- Become a wildlife rescuer.
- Drive more safely at night. Keep your speed below 80 km/h (half of road kills occur when vehicles are going more than this speed).
- If you do hit or come across a dead marsupial (like a kangaroo), you can check its pouch for a joey (a baby). If they’re found soon enough the sanctuary’s emergency line (0447 264 625) can be called to rescue it.
- Remove roadkill from the road. Scavengers will be attracted to roadkill and are more likely to also get hit by passing cars.
- Do NOT feed wildlife.
How to get to the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
As Bonorong is located about 25 minutes out of Hobart (Tasmania’s capital city), renting a car is the easiest way to get to the sanctuary. There are currently no public transport options, but there are a few local tour operators that will take you to Bonorong as part of their trips.
What you should consider
- The sanctuary is open from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM daily.
- The costs of admission are: Adult $29 / Child (3-15) $15 / Infants FREE / Family Pass $80.
- The entrance fees cover the operation of the sanctuary and its wildlife assistance programs, so you can feel good about your money going to a good cause.
- Group tours of the sanctuary are included in the admission price. Tours depart at 11:30 AM, 2:00 PM, and 3:30 PM. Private and more in-depth tours are also available — see the Bonorong website for more information on bookings and prices.