Give our new endangered devils their due

HANNAH MCKEE
Last updated 05:00 14/12/2013

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Wellington Zoo's Neighbours section has four new residents and, according to their keeper, they're devils by name, but not by nature.

Four tasmanian devils are settling in well after their arrival from Trowunna Wildlife Park in Tasmania.

"I think that's just an old stereotype, that they are really aggressive and they attack," says keeper Kristin Kennedy.

"It's the exact opposite I have found with these guys."

When asked how you tell one devil from another, Kennedy says it is easy. Anne-Maree has a classic white-bib marking and is the smallest but feistiest.

Molly, on the other hand, is the big tough one, while lone chap Meluin is "pretty easy-going", as is Mercy.

Tasmanian devils have unfairly developed a bit of a bad reputation, she says.

"Their bite is quite strong but their bark is bigger than their bite. It's a scary, different noise but it's just how they communicate."

The creatures have been given a few names over the years, says Kennedy.

"They were originally called that because, when the settlers arrived, they heard all these devilish screams and they were scared because they didn't know what animal was out there.

"I think it's a cool name, though - they don't need a fluffy, cute name, they're very hardcore and very tough."

The thought of being in an enclosure with tasmanian devils might seem unnerving for some.

There is no cuddling, sitting them on your knee or giving them a pat when it comes to these animals, says Kennedy.

"But I'm not worried that they'll bite me, I've been with them enough to know their personalities now."

The introduction of tasmanian devils to the zoo is part of the Save the Tasmanian Devil programme, which aims to raise awareness about devil facial tumour disease, a parasitic cancer that has ravaged the wild population in Tasmania.

"They're doing a lot to make sure these guys don't stay endangered forever, and it's great that Wellington Zoo can play a role in that and help with conservation for our neighbours," Kennedy says.

She did not know much about the animals before her training, and understands that they can be a bit of a mystery to the general public.

"Some people just know Taz the cartoon and I think they are the exact opposite.

"They are amazing, a lot of people don't realise how cute they are until they actually see them.

"It's something you have to witness for yourself."

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- The Dominion Post

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