Friday, March 30, 2018

Deloraine the Tasmanian Devil

Were you aware that a baby Tasmanian devil is called a "joey", just like a baby kangaroo?  They're both marsupials (where babies live in a pouch), and are about the size of a jelly bean when they're born.  And there are about forty siblings born at once!

But with only 4 teats to sustain life, approximately 36 of those tiny, hairless babies are destined for doom.  In a brutal display of Darwinism, only the fittest will live to develop past the jelly bean stage.

How do I know so much about the breeding patterns of Tasmanian devils, you ask?  Because I am the mother of one, that's why.

Not literally or even figuratively, but I did name one.  And that's three-fourths of all a parent does, right?

Behold, my girl Deloraine:

Shortly before the wedding last year I entered a contest to name one of three new baby Tasmanian devils at Dreamworld, a nearby theme park that I didn't even know housed a zoo.  The contest said that Tasmanian-themed names would be especially well regarded, so I looked back at our Tasmania itinerary from when we visited in 2013.

All three of the surviving babies were girls, and I thought one of our stops along the way, Deloraine, had a very pretty name fit for a girl.  I don't remember anything about the town, really, except I had the best BLT of my life there.

That's what my fat ass remembers, half a decade later.  A sandwich.  Seriously, though, it was delicious!

That sandwich served me well in 2013, and will serve this sweet, sleepy girl well for the rest of her life.

Her sisters names are not Tasmania related at all, which I think is exceedingly weak.  Blaze and Dash were the other two.  Lame.  They should've given me naming rights for all 3!

As a reward for my efforts I got to have a hands-on meeting with her in person, along with her sister Blaze.  Apparently Dash isn't very people friendly, and is being shipped off to New Zealand to expand and diversify their gene pool, so I only got to meet dos devils, and their "real" mom, Michele:

Michele is the wildlife curator, and literally hand raised these babies herself.  She took them to her home!  They are super cute and look like teddy bears, but make no mistake they are are wild animals with a vicious set of jaws.  I asked her if they could bite my finger clean off and the response was, "Well, not clean..."

Fierce but adorable!

Dreamworld does several of these "wildlife experiences" with different animals for guests and I think this was the girls first.  I assume this because they had a fair bit of stranger danger and weren't cooperating for the camera!

The goal was to coax Del, as Michele calls her, onto my lap for a photo by the official photographer.  That went nowhere fast, so we tried Blaze instead.  Ultimately this is what we got:

Those mama's girls were not having any of my lap, which I was perfectly happy about since my thin pants offered little to no protection against their sharp, strong claws that are well suited to tearing roadkill to shreds.

Native Australian wildlife cannot catch a break.  Tasmanian tigers went extinct 80 years ago.  Koala numbers are rapidly diminishing because they're going sterile due to syphilis.  Yes, kids, syphilis, so wrap your pecker before you wreck her.

Tasmanian devils, once found wild on the Australian mainland are now only on the island of Tasmania.  They're being wiped out due to facial tumors, a cancer that is contagious, adding an extra layer of horror onto an already sad situation.  They've been on the endangered list for a decade now.

Captive breeding programs like the one at Dreamworld might be the species only hope if they don't figure out how to prevent and treat the facial tumors in the wild.  Luckily the captive populations are quarantined from it.

I had a fantastic, and might I point out rare, up close and personal experience with Deloraine and Blaze.  I've never heard of places offering hands-on Tasmanian devil experiences before, like they do with koalas, wombats and other native animals with less ferocious teeth and claws.  But they're not that vicious!

I liked that other people would come by and see how I live!

The devils, now about a year old, are adorable, smell a bit funky and most of all I'm left wondering where they get industrial strength cat toys.  Regular ones wouldn't last ten seconds around these girls.

There are other Aussie animals that we made a brief stop to see:

Wedge-tailed eagle
Masked owl + fanboy
We only briefly stopped to look at these, as we had other engagements that day.  I can assure you if there are birds to be seen there is no question whether or not we will stop.

For naming Deloraine I also won season passes to Dreamworld until the end of this year, so we can go back whenever we want to see more birds and watch my little girl grow up big and strong!

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