Kids will love this feeding experience in a Tasmanian Devil Sanctuary

They are smelly and noisy and love fighting - just three reasons why children will adore this experience with the endangered Australian marsupial.

  • Danielle Ross Walls
  • September 2019

I am standing outside in the crisp, pitch-black night in Tasmania’s Cradle Country, holding my two little boys’ hands as we wait in anticipation, when suddenly a bloodcurdling screech erupts, cutting through our whispers of excitement.

We give a startled jump, only to realise this isn’t some scary nightmare coming true but rather the “natural” dinner bell ringing at Devils@Cradle opens in new window, a Tasmanian devil conservation sanctuary. Set at the foot of Cradle Mountain, about two hours from Launceston, the sanctuary works with other organisations around the country to grow the population of this endangered species.

Just five minutes earlier, we had been sitting by a toasty fireplace, where guide and “devil keeper” (yes, that’s her real job title) Pru had informed us of the what-why-when of this terrifying noise: it’s the devils letting us know they’re hungry.

Our briefing, which included a film clip of devils in the wild, narrated by the conservation god himself, Sir David Attenborough, revealed that this Tasmanian icon might first appear cute and cuddly but it can actually be as vicious as a piranha – it has an exceptionally forceful bite that can comfortably chew through bone.

Devils@Cradle's after-dark feeding tours allow you to get up close and personal with the endangered species.

Outside in the cool night, my children and I stand just metres away, holding our breath and watching in awe as Pru walks into their enclosure, tightly holding two legs of wallaby meat. She is immediately descended upon and then almost pulled over as the creatures yank aggressively at their meal, but she calmly manages their excitement.

The devils screech loudly again, viciously fighting amongst themselves for a share of the meat. I take a step back – they can have a slightly offensive odour when stressed. Their behaviour prompts my enthusiastic six-year-old to ask if they are known to kill each other. Pru responds with: “They can cause some very serious damage to one another.”

The feeding frenzy carries on around her as she continues to educate us on the sanctuary’s crucial work around the fatal Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease that almost rendered the species extinct.

As we walk away 75 minutes later, the sounds of crunching bone and ear-piercing screeching fade behind us. I’m glad we weren’t doing the feeding ourselves, although I think my boys would have liked to get in on the action. It was certainly no less thrilling to get up close to these wild creatures and my youngest sums up the experience perfectly when he happily exclaims, “That was so cool, Mum!”

Need to know

After Dark Feeding Tours start at 5.30pm every day. Entry is AUD $29.50 per person and AUD $15 for kids under 15.