The drive up to Cleland Park was pretty long from the house. By the time we got there we only had a couple hours left to spend. The park was large and required quite a lot of walking. We set off in a direction we thought would land us at a Tasmanian devil talk right as it would begin.
The first thing I noticed were little chubby animals running wild at our feet. Jess called them Aussie rats, but I'm pretty sure the animals were actually known as potaroos. In my defense, I wasn't the only person taking pictures of these guys.
We entered through a gate and began walking down a dirt path toward another gate. Halfway down this path I noticed some people out in the field that we were crossing through. Surrounded by them were wallabies! I convinced Jess to come over and see them, and take a couple pictures of me with them. She had me take a few pictures too, and then, as she was paying attention to a few Roos around her, I got myself a wallaby selfie. :)
I'm still not really sure what the difference is between a kangaroo and a wallaby or if the titles are arbitrary. I think there were red kangaroos, grey kangaroos, kangaroo island kangaroos, yellow footed rock wallabies, and swamp wallabies. Since I'm not too great at identifying them, and there wasn't adequate signage, I'll won't call any by a specific species for this blog entry.
There were also a few emus in with the wallabies. This was the point when I learned that Jess was afraid of emus. They followed us in hopes of food, so I stayed behind Jess, between her and the emus.
We went through the next gate, and guess what! There were more wallabies! We got a few small handfuls of food and coaxed them close. These guys were even more adorable than the last ones. This might have been because I found their awkward little mouth movements as they ate cute beyond belief.
There were a few large kangaroos in the next area as well.
Eventually, the path led us to some smaller exhibits. The first was a wombat exhibit, but all of he wombats were out of view within their burrow. The next was an echidna. If you've been reading my previous blogs, you should know quite a bit about these awesome monotremes by now.
Finally we reached the Tasmanian devil exhibit just before it was time for a keeper to begin an educational talk and feeding for this solitary devil. Devils got their name due to several factors. They make a unique and apparently horrible sounding vocalizations, they yawn showing their mouth of sharp teeth in defense, and their ears turn red when excited or irritated. Devils are the largest living marsupial in the world. One thing I find really fascinating about them is the number of babies they have. According to most reliable sources, Tasmanian devils have 20-30 joeys at a time. The truly interesting part is that they only have four teats. This means that only the first four joeys to attach to a teat will survive their very first day of life. Even after that, the average devil only have two or three of her joeys make it all the way to independence per birth.
Originally devils were widely dispersed throughout Australia. Before Europeans came to Australia, devils had been wiped out everywhere except Tasmania. Dingos are thought to be the cause of this extinction. Eventually Europeans made it to Tasmania with their livestock and created a bounty for devils, who were thought to be livestock killers. In 1941, the small remaining population became protected. Due to this, there is limited genetic diversity within the population, making it easier for diseases to spread.
One such disease which is currently threatening the survival of Tasmanian devils is the Devil Facial Tumor Desease (DFTD). Discovered in the mid 1990s, DFTD is spread primarily through saliva, biting and sharing of food. (It's kinda like a Tasmanian devil zombie apocalypse.) It devastatingly has ripped through Tasmania. The symptoms begin with facial and mouth sores, lesions, and tumors, making it painful or impossible to eat. This progresses quickly, eventually leading to death from cancerous tumors, infections, or starvation.
While research is being done on the disease, there is little hope of stopping it in already infected populations. Efforts are now being focused on isolating populations which have not yet been infected and breeding captive populations to be released back to Tasmania once the disease is no longer a threat.
We watched the devil eat his food and then slowly made our way over to the dingo enclosure for the next talk. On the way, we passed a koala area with a long line of people trailing around it. Cleland charges people to hold koalas, and a little extra to get a picture as proof. I had already held koalas and had no desire to wait in line. We made it to the dingo exhibit just before the next talk. Unfortunately we didn't know where exactly the talk would be and ended up on the wrong side. The keeper actually entered the dingo exhibits and pet the dingos like you would a dog throughout the talk. Couldn't hear a thing, but then a super chubby dingo came out for dinner and it was worth it just to see that. :)
We left the park after the dingo talk. On the way back Jess stopped at the Mt. Lofty Summit to show me the view. She said it wasn't worth the hike, but it was still a nice view.
Next to the Summit gift shop I found a penny crushing machine. I laughed and asked what was used for the penny since Australia doesn't have copper coins or one cent coins. Jess explained that the machines have a stock of American pennies inside of them. You just have to insert two dollars, and a crushed penny will fall out. Well done America!