Tasmania’s rugged landscape hosts all manner of wild and wonderful creatures, replete with newborns come springtime. As the director of Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, there’s no better person to quiz about the island’s most interesting residents than Greg Irons.
When I was a kid, I used to visit Bonorong every year for my birthday, taking lap after lap around the wildlife park. At that time, I dreamt of having so many amazing “pets” and even told my mother on my 7th birthday, while at Bonorong, that I would own the place one day.
It was only later in life that I came to understand the profound joy and impact of saving an animal and releasing it back into the wild. I consider myself fortunate to have recognised my passion at a young age and having fulfilled my dream as sanctuary director at Bonorong.
It’s nearly impossible to single out my favourite memories from being involved with such an incredible place. However, taking a massive leap of faith to start Tasmania’s first wildlife rescue service and then, just a few months later, realising against all odds that it was likely going to succeed – that journey alone comprises countless cherished memories. The establishment of the wildlife hospital, another pioneering endeavour in Tasmania, stands as a testament to our accomplishments.
How we help Tasmania’s wildlife and ecology as a whole is very direct and reactive, and unfortunately, is required multiple times a day. As I type this, it has only just passed lunchtime, and already 40 calls have come into the Rescue Phone just today. We are constantly striving to ensure animals remain protected in their natural habitats, enabling them to have sanctuaries in the wild, so they don’t require our sanctuary here.
Though this type of direct care is obvious, we believe the more crucial aspect, often overlooked, is our ability to educate through the sanctuary. This education can happen as people watch from the hospital viewing window, through media, or directly on tours. We believe in harnessing the power of the community.
We are so lucky in Tasmania to have so many different landscapes, even though we are not a particularly large island. If you travel to any corner of the state, it feels like stepping into a different country and people can have close encounters with everything from pocket-sized predators to ancient forest giants - it is one of the reasons Tasmania is such a fabulous place to visit. We have incredible cool temperate rainforest, coastal lands, alpine terrains, dry sclerophyll forests and more. Each unique environment is home to its distinct array of wildlife.
I often refer to Tasmania as the Noah’s Ark of Australian wildlife. It’s the last stronghold for many species that once thrived in various parts of mainland Australia but now find refuge only here. We are incredibly lucky to have some beautiful forests and intact landscapes, and hopefully, it will remain that way for many years to come.
Springtime for us is the beginning of complete and utter madness – with this period being the height of breeding season for our wildlife. Being a country with so many marsupials, when a mother is sadly killed, often, there is a baby or multiple babies in a pouch that can be raised for release back to the wild – that’s where we step in, so we are usually at full capacity with all kinds of animals.
Springtime in Tassie is a great time of year to see baby animals in the wild. If you are lucky enough to be in northeast Tasmania where the Forester kangaroos reside, or if you see some Pademelons or wallabies, you can often see their babies peeking out of the pouch to explore the world for the first time. If you are lucky, you may even see a baby wombat toddling along behind its mother. But essentially, when it comes to spring, Tasmania is bursting with babies all across the island.
What people love about Bonorong more than anything is the fact that simply by paying their entry fees to meet some of our beautiful residents, they’re supporting a unique cause—the only one of its kind in Tasmania—and aiding the preservation of species that, in many instances, are exclusive to Tasmania. It is lovely for visitors to look through the hospital viewing window and see an animal being helped and knowing that their entry fee is what made that possible.
Our most exciting development at the moment is that we are building a much bigger hospital facility. Not only will this allow us to see a lot more animals, as the number of animals needing help is sadly growing every year, but it will also allow us to extend our veterinary hours.
We will also be building a new walkway that gives a real cross-section and insight into what really happens behind the scenes at a rescue and rehabilitation facility like ours. Guests will be able to see into our nursery into the critical care areas, and get a better view into the surgery and consultation rooms. We strive to create an experience where people see the journey that an animal goes on when it requires rehabilitation. It is a timely reminder for people that we must all strive to prevent an animal from needing help in the first place.
For more information about visiting Bonorong Sanctuary, see bonorong.com.au
For more things to do in Tasmania, visit discovertasmania.com.au