Over the past 9 months I have travelled through 6 countries, across the world, each blessed with diverse wildlife and full of natural wonders around every corner. But being a conscious traveller, who likes to be a green and ethical tourist (whilst on too tight a budget to pay for specifically labelled eco tourism), there is one big thing I have felt I’ve missed out on: a true exploration and interaction with native animals.
For many years I have boycotted zoos, circus’ and animal rides; adamant that my money will not support industries which knowingly exploit animals or prevent them from living a life which is natural to them. My experience of the mistreated camels in Jaisalmer, India, stayed with me long after I encountered them wheezing and tired as their masters dragged them across the desert on continuous tourist rides, with little rest or water.
But with this resistance to organised wildlife institutes, and unable to afford expensive ethical tours which get you up close and personal to animals, I have not seen the Elephants, Tigers, Monkeys and Crocodiles that inhabit the countries I have visited.
All this changed recently when I took a week holiday to the gorgeous Australian state of Tasmania, and visited the empowering Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary who specialise in rescue and rehabilitation of animals on the island.
From the face of it, Bonorong is a fantastic day out to see up close and personal a number of species that are sadly now extinct everywhere but Tasmania; including the Tasmanian devil, the Eastern quoll and the Tasmanian bettong. You can feed the friendly Kangaroos and stroll through their natural habitat, have a respectful selfie with a Koala, and talk to 100 year old Fred, a rescued Cockatoo who outlived generations of his human family who kept him as a pet. But behind the fun day is an ethical motive.
Australia has the highest number of mammal extinctions in the past 200 years, and at Bonorong they are determined to ensure these animals do not join that list. As well as these animals you’ll also see everything from possums to potoroos, emus to echidnas, the agile spotted-tailed quoll and orphaned wombats.
All Bonorong animals are there for a reason – whether thats a short term injury, or a disability which means they can no longer survive in the wild – and the sanctuary’s number one aim is to see them back in the bush and to prevent others arriving at our door in the first place.
The result is a proactive, empowering and inspiring sanctuary which works to protect and preserve the native wildlife. They have established, are participating in, or are currently planning the following initiatives:
- Established Tasmania’s first 24-hour Wildlife Rescue Program
- Established Tasmania’s only seabird rehabilitation enclosure with a saltwater pool
- Established a quarantine facility and breeding program for the almost-unknown Tasmanian Tree Frog
- Established camera-trap monitoring of carnivorous marsupial populations (Tasmanian devils, eastern quolls and spotted-tail quolls) in the remote Tarkine Wilderness
- Participation in the national captive breeding program for the endangered Tasmanian devil
- Planning to build Tasmania’s first Wildlife Veterinary Hospital
I can’t recommend enough a visit to Tasmania and Bonorong, and you don’t have to take just my word for it. My equally passionate ethical travel friend, Rowena, who also happens to have worked around the world on a number of animal conservation projects, currently lives in Tasmania and recommended Bonorong to me after volunteering at the Sancuary when she first arrived on the Island.