Just arrived home after two weeks in North East Tasmania. A mixture of wilderness and "ordered woods and gardens" where the borders between are often blurred. Fifteen years ago while visiting the southern and western area of the island native animals were frequently seen on the roadsides (admittedly some as road kill, but the evidence of their existence was there). This time the only places I saw native animals were in wildlife parks, and many of those were "rescues", like the magnificent pair of wedgetails in the photograph..no longer able to fly. Facial tumour disease is decimating the Tasmanian Devil population and although there is a great deal of fund raising and research happening no one seems any closer to a cure or solution. The platypus is falling victim to some sort of nasal virus which has been carried in from the mainland and to which the local population has no immunity.
So all the monotremes and marsupials we saw were behind bars! The platypuses and echidnas at Beauty Point at the end of the Tamar highway never see natural sunlight and are cossetted in a privately owned wildlife "Hilton" Well looked after, obviously treasured and loved but definitely living the high life not the wild life!
It is argued that these displays (zoos if you like) help to educate and promote the "conservation" of these amazing creatures. But why then is their habitat disappearing even faster each day and their populations diminishing at an alarming rate? Why too, is the increasing need for rescue operations and sanctuaries falling to private individuals who struggle on with no government funding. These people are forced to turn their "parks" into petting zoos with domestic farm animals displayed alongside echidnas and devils.
So what exactly are we teaching the kids that visit these parks. That animals are more desirable when they are on display and on our terms. It doesn't matter that we are taking over their habitats we can always breed them in captivity! And besides they are so much more accessible this way, with so many cute photo opportunities!
Will today's children's children ever experience that wonderful feeling of spotting a glimpse of a truly wild animal, free in its natural habitat and untouchable.......not by current predictions they won't!